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Ex-Busan vice mayor detained on graft charge

Momentum growing on probe into Yoo’s Blue House links
Nov 29,2019
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Yoo Jae-soo
A local court Wednesday night issued a pretrial detention warrant for Busan’s former vice mayor for economic affairs, Yoo Jae-soo, who is being investigated by prosecutors on charges of receiving nearly 50 million won ($42,400) worth of bribes.

A judge at the Seoul Eastern District Court cited the possibilities Yoo could flee or destroy evidence as the reasons why the court has decided to grant the warrant.

Yoo was immediately detained at the Seoul Eastern Detention Center in Songpa District, southern Seoul.

With Yoo’s detainment, Seoul prosecutors were expected to add momentum to their probe into Yoo and his alleged connections to the Blue House.

Prosecutors believe Yoo received nearly 50 million worth of bribes from four different companies when he was head of the Financial Policy Bureau of the Financial Services Commission from August 2017 to March 2018. Among the alleged bribes were expensive golf clubs and plane tickets.

Yoo also faces suspicions he personally asked an asset management company to hire his younger sibling and pressured business people to buy his book in bulk after he left the Financial Services Commission.

Suspicions against Yoo were first raised nine months ago by Kim Tae-woo, who worked for the Seoul Central District Prosecutors’ Office as an investigator before he was temporarily dispatched to the Blue House in July 2017 to serve in the special inspection bureau.

The bureau’s job was to monitor top Blue House officials tapped by President Moon Jae-in, as well as the president’s family, for possible corruption.

In November 2018, the Blue House fired Kim after accusing him of interfering in a police investigation.

The president’s office sent him back to the Seoul Central District Prosecutors’ Office and asked prosecutors to punish him.

Kim then began leaking details of his time at the Blue House to the local press, claiming he was ordered to spy on private citizens and that Moon’s top aides tried to cover up alleged corruption by powerful figures - including former Busan Vice Mayor Yoo.

The prosecution fired Kim in January.

In February, Kim filed a complaint with the prosecution against Cho Kuk, who at the time was serving as Moon’s senior secretary for civil affairs, accusing him of dereliction of duty in the Yoo case. Kim claimed Cho ordered the cover-up of Yoo’s bribery allegations.

According to Kim, the Blue House was first aware of the bribery allegations against Yoo in late 2017, when Kim’s colleague in the special inspection bureau was tipped off from an unidentified source. His colleague shared that information with other members in the bureau.

An investigation on Yoo opened, but for an unknown reason, Kim said, “there was an order from above” to halt the probe. Yoo was never penalized and went on becoming Busan’s vice mayor in July 2018.

Prosecutors are expected to zero in on whether someone in the Blue House did actually try to stop an investigation into Yoo.

Kim’s boss was Lee In-geol, head of the special inspection bureau. The bureau was under the office of Blue House Anti-Corruption Secretary Park Hyoung-chul, whose office was supervised by Cho.

Seoul prosecutors are known to have recently summoned Lee and Park for questioning.

Both are said to have testified that Cho gave the order, but prosecutors suspect Cho, in turn, could’ve been pressured by someone of a higher rank in the Blue House.

Yoo stepped down from his Busan vice mayoral post on Nov. 21, the same day he was summoned by prosecutors for questioning.

BY LEE GA-YOUNG, YOUN SANG-UN AND LEE SUNG-EUN [lee.sungeun@joongang.co.kr]