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Shin to face prosecutor’s questioning in Park probe

Apr 07,2017
Lotte Group Chairman Shin Dong-bin is scheduled to be questioned by the prosecution today over an allegation that the retail giant bribed Park Geun-hye during her presidency to seek her support for the conglomerate’s pending business issues.

The prosecution’s special investigation team said Thursday that Shin was asked to show up for an investigation at 9:30 a.m. today. He will be summoned as a witness for now.

The prosecutors are going after suspicions that Park received bribes from conglomerates in return for her influence on various issues concerning their businesses. Independent counsel Park Young-soo concluded that Park received massive bribes from Samsung Group through her friend, Choi Soon-sil, and prosecuted Samsung Electronics Vice Chairman Lee Jae-yong on a bribery charge.

Picking up the cases last month, the prosecutors said they will look into bribery allegations involving other conglomerates including Lotte and SK groups. SK Chairman Chey Tae-won was questioned last month.

The prosecutors suspect Lotte paid money last year to seek Park’s influence to win a duty free business license. Jang Sun-wook, president of Hotel Lotte DFS, was already questioned last month. On Thursday, the prosecution also visited Park, who is jailed at the Seoul Detention Center, and conducted a second round of questioning over alleged crimes she committed during her failed presidency.

A team led by Han Woong-jae, a senior prosecutor of the Seoul Central District Prosecutors Office, arrived at the detention center around 11 a.m. and started the interrogation. She is facing 13 charges, including bribery and abuse of power.

Following dismissal from the presidency on March 10 for allowing her secret inner circle to influence state affairs for private gain, Park was locked up at the Seoul Detention Center on Friday for investigation and indictment. It was the third time Han interrogated Park, following her initial questioning at the prosecution on March 21 and again at the Seoul Detention Center on Tuesday.

Park was accompanied by her lawyer, Yoo Yeong-ha, for the questioning. During the first two rounds, Park denied all charges.

It remains to be seen how long Thursday’s questioning will take. The first round at the Seoul Detention Center started at 10 a.m. and ended at 4:15 p.m., and she and Yoo spent more hours until 8:40 p.m. to go over the interrogation report. No video or audio recording was made at Park’s request. When Park was questioned at the prosecution last month, she also spent seven hours and 30 minutes reviewing the report.

The prosecution also decided to seek a 10-day extension for its detention of Park. The warrant from the Seoul Central District Court allows the prosecution to hold the suspect for 10 days with a one-time extension of 10 days. Park’s first 10-day will end on Sunday, and the prosecutors decided to hold for another 10 days until April 19.

Earlier in the morning, Choi, prosecuted as a co-conspirator of the presidential scandal, was relocated from the Seoul Detention Center to Seoul Nambu Detention Center. The special investigation team of the prosecution made the request in order to avoid any possible contact between Park and Choi inside the facility.

Although they were each locked up in solitary cells, concerns grew that they may try to contact each other. The relocation took place around 8:20 a.m. Choi had been detained at the Seoul Detention Center since November throughout the investigation and trial process. She was prosecuted in December on charges of extorting money from conglomerates in collusion with Park.

The Seoul Nambu Detention Center, built in 2011, is one of the newest correctional facilities. It has earned the nickname “hotel of the prison industry” for its updated infrastructures such as clean facilities and heating system.

Other suspects of the Park scandal, such as former presidential aides Jeong Ho-seong and An Chong-bum, are detained at the Nambu center, but since the male and female detainees are locked up in separate buildings, there is no chance of contact.

BY SER MYO-JA [ser.myoja@joongang.co.kr]