Probe on Roh’s daughter reopened
Published : Feb 28, 2012 - 19:23
Updated : Feb 28, 2012 - 20:20
Nearly three years after former President Roh Moo-hyun killed himself during an investigation into a bribery scandal, the prosecution has reopened the case.

They are looking into whether his daughter used his alleged bribes to buy an apartment in the United States.

However, opposition parties have protested the investigation, calling it politically motivated.

They noted that the probe was reinitiated just weeks before the April 12 general elections to hurt the reputation of Roh’s aides expecting to run.

According to the Seoul Central Prosecutors’ Office, the investigators have questioned Don Lee, a manager of a U.S. casino; his brother, James Lee; and Eun, a foreign car dealer.

The Lees have been grilled over their delivery of 1.3 billion won ($1 million at that time) in January 2009 from an unidentified man to Eun, who reportedly laundered the money and transferred it to Kyung Yeon-hee. Kyung had once been close to selling her high-end apartment in the Hudson Club complex of New Jersey to Roh Jeong-yeon, Roh Moo-hyun’s daughter.

According to the investigation, Don Lee asked James to meet a man near Gwacheon metro station, who took him to a greenhouse and gave him seven boxes of banknotes containing 1.3 billion won. James delivered them to Eun, who later sent the money to Kyung.

However, the transfer procedure was illegitimate, a violation of Foreign Exchange Control Law, the prosecutors said. Officers concluded that Eun was a middleman, and suspect that the money came from Jeong-yeon.

During the 2009 investigation, the prosecutors confirmed that Roh’s daughter transferred $450,000 to Kyung to buy the Hudson Club apartment at the price of $1.6 million. However, the contract was vitiated since Roh failed to pay the remainder.

The $450,000 Roh paid was known to be part of $1 million Chung Sang-moon, a close aide of Roh Moo-hyun, received from Park Yeon-cha, a Busan-based shoemaker and one of Roh’s wealthiest sponsors. Chung was sentenced to six years in prison in 2010. The case was sealed after Roh’s death.

Some local media suspect that the $1 million could be an additional kickback from Park or another sponsor of the late President. Others say that Kyung blackmailed Jeong-yeon over Park’s irregularities and that the transfer of money was made at Kyung’s request.

The prosecution has requested that Kyung come to Korea for questioning. But they admitted that the chances of her showing up are slim since she is a U.S. citizen and the foreign exchange transfer she orchestrated may not be illegal in the U.S.

Opposition parties are raising suspicion over the motivation behind the investigation since less than two months is left till the general elections, where a substantial number of Roh Moo-hyun’s aides expect to join the nomination contest.

The investigation was launched upon complaints filed by the National Action Campaign for Freedom and Democracy, an ultra-right group, based on a monthly Chosun magazine article alleging Jeong-yeon’s involvement. Chosun, a leading conservative newspaper, was critical of the Roh Moo-hyun administration.

Kim Jin-pyo, floor leader of the DUP, demanded that prosecutors stop the investigation.

“The explanation about Jeong-yeon’s apartment was filed in 2009 and closed after Roh’s death. Reopening the case is political persecution, a violation of the law subjecting public officials to remain on the fence about political matters,” he said.

The investigators said the case will be strictly about Kyung, Eun and the Lee brothers.

“We have no plans to reopen the Roh Moo-hyun case. It was wrapped up when Roh died on May 23, 2009,” a prosecutor said.

However, they did not rule out possibilities of investigating Roh Jeong-yeon as she is claimed to be the source of the foreign exchange fraud.

By Bae Ji-sook (