Seoul prosecutors have secured a high-priced painting at the center of a graft scandal involving two former national tax chiefs, a prosecution official said Tuesday.
The official said the Seoul Central District Prosecutors' Office has obtained the painting titled "Hakdong Village" by the late abstract artist Choi Wook-kyung. Han Sang-ryule, a former head of the National Tax Service, is accused of presenting the painting to the wife of his predecessor, Jeon Goon-pyo, in early 2007, allegedly to get a promotion.
Han served as the tax chief from November 2007 to January 2009. He returned home last week, about two years after leaving the country amid widening bribery allegations.
The whereabouts of the painting, estimated to be worth about 30 million won ($26,580) at the time, had been unknown.
"We believed this was the most important piece of evidence in our probe into Han's lobbying," the official said, without elaborating when and how the prosecutors acquired the piece.
The graft allegation broke out two years ago, when Jeon's wife put on auction the painting that she claimed to have received from Han. Both Han and Jeon said they hadn't even seen the painting.
Han, who appeared before the prosecution Monday, is also accused of taking influential local politicians to rounds of golf in late 2008, apparently lobbying for his re-election.
Prosecutors also believe Han abused his authority in August 2008 while ordering a Seoul branch to investigate a Busan-based shoemaking company called Taekwang Industry, whose president, Park Yeon-cha, later ended up at the center of a high-profile bribery scandal involving influential figures, including late former President Roh Moo-hyun. (Yonhap News)