+ A

Blue House raided over probe of ex-vice mayor

Dec 05,2019
Prosecutors raided the Blue House Wednesday for documents related to allegations that the presidential office covered up a probe into the former Busan vice mayor and accusations that he took bribes.

The Seoul Eastern District Prosecutors’ Office announced that it dispatched its prosecutors and investigators to the Blue House at 11:30 a.m. to accept related documents from Blue House officials without physically entering the main Blue House premises.

It was the third time that prosecutors carried out a raid of the Moon Jae-in Blue House, all conducted in a manner that respected the security sensitivity of the area.

Yoo Jae-soo, Busan’s former vice mayor for economic affairs, is under investigation for allegedly taking nearly 50 million won ($42,400) in bribes. On Nov. 27, a court in Seoul issued a pretrial detention warrant for Yoo, and he’s now detained at the Seoul Eastern Detention Center in Songpa District, southern Seoul.

Yoo is alleged to have taken nearly 50 million won in 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. Yoo also faces accusations that he personally asked an asset management company to hire his younger sibling and pressured businesspeople to buy a book he wrote in bulk.

Suspicions surrounding Yoo were first raised 10 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 of the presidential secretary for anticorruption office. The bureau’s job was to monitor top government officials hired by Moon, as well as his family, for possible corruption.

Kim, who was fired from the Blue House in November 2018 for interfering in a police investigation, later claimed that 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.

In February, after getting fired from the prosecution as an investigator, 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 the probe of Yoo’s alleged bribery.

In a statement Wednesday evening, the Blue House expressed “regret” that prosecutors raided a “facility of national importance” based on testimony from Kim, “who faces allegations of illegality.”

Kim’s boss was Lee In-geol, head of the special inspection bureau. The bureau was under the office of Blue House Anticorruption 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 to close the probe into Yoo, but prosecutors suspect Cho, in turn, could have been pressured by someone of a higher rank in the Blue House.

BY LEE SUNG-EUN [lee.sungeun@joongang.co.kr]