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Lee’s aides raided over NIS funds suspicions

Jan 13,2018
The prosecution’s investigation into alleged misappropriation of the spy agency’s secret operations funds extended back to the Lee Myung-bak administration on Friday.

The Seoul Central District Prosecutors’ Office raided homes of former officials of the Lee Blue House Friday on the suspicion that National Intelligence Service (NIS) funds were illegally funneled to presidential officials. The residences of Kim Baek-jun, former general affairs secretary at the Blue House, Kim Jin-mo, former civil affairs secretary, and Kim Hee-jung, former personal secretary to the president, were raided.

“While investigating former NIS Director Won Sei-hoon’s alleged misappropriation of the agency’s secret operations funds, we discovered some evidence that the NIS money was illegally delivered to Blue House officials,” a prosecution official said.

Prosecutors suspect something similar to the alleged misappropriation of NIS funds during the Park Geun-hye presidency. Park was indicted on charges of ordering the NIS to give her regular sum of money from its secret operations funds, which she spent on things such as clothes and beauty treatments. The prosecution charged her with bribery and embezzlement. The prosecution said it will later summon officials from the Lee Blue House based on evidence collected in the raids. It said it was premature to say if senior aides or Lee would be questioned.

“We are at the early stage of the investigation,” a prosecution source said. “We just detected some clues while investigating Won’s corruption. We need more investigation.”

An associate of Lee accused the Moon Jae-in administration for “political retaliation” by abusing the power of the prosecution. “The current government is determined to go after Lee administration officials,” he told the Yonhap News Agency. “As far as I know, the Lee Blue House did not receive special operations funds from the NIS.”

He also said the prosecution’s investigation and National Tax Service’s recent tax probe into DAS, an auto component maker owned by Lee’s elder brother, are other attempts to go after the former president.

The prosecution raided DAS on Thursday on the suspicion that it maintained a 12 billion won ($11.2 million) slush fund. Rumors have persisted that the former president is the real owner of the company.

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