New Evidence Corners Roh
By Kim Rahn
Defensive testimony from former President Roh Moo-hyun's family members appear to be cornering the former head of state.
Asked about key materials related to the case, they answered that they had destroyed them or thrown them away, according to prosecutors, Thursday.
The answers are expected to provide the prosecution with sufficient reason to seek a warrant to arrest the former President to prevent further destruction of evidence.
Prosecutors said that Roh's daughter, Jeong-yeon, claimed during a recent summons that she tore up the contract for a house in the United States that the family attempted to buy for brother, Geon-ho.
The prosecution found that Taekwang CEO Park Yeon-cha wired $400,000 to Roh's daughter in September 2007, separate from the $1 million won that he delivered to former first lady Kwon Yang-sook in June 2007.
Roh's aides said that Kwon wanted to buy a house in the United States for her son, who was studying there, so that he could live in the country after graduating, but he refused the offer. Kwon instead had her daughter ― also in the United States with her husband ― sign a contract for the house on Geon-ho's, and Park sent $400,000 to her as a down payment.
The son did not move to the house, but the contract for the $1.6-million house is still valid, according to the daughter. But she told prosecutors that she tore up the contract when the investigation started.
``We asked her why she risked no return of the down payment following the destruction of the contract. But she did not answer. We presume she wanted to prevent new allegations from emerging,'' senior prosecutor Hong Man-pyo said.
As for the luxury watches that Park gave Roh and Kwon on Roh's 60th birthday in September 2006, Roh testified that his wife threw them away near his home. It is claimed many visitors to Roh's home in Bongha Village, South Gyeongsang Province, are rushing to search for the expensive foreign wristwatches, each of which is valued at more than $100,000.
The senior Roh claimed that his wife received them without his knowledge and during questioning, April 30, he said she had discarded them and he did not know where they were.
The ex-President has insisted that his wife handled everything without his knowledge, but his excuses are said to be changing slightly every time new findings and testimony emerge.
Observers say tearing up a contract and throwing away watches can be seen as destruction of evidence, and is likely to affect the prosecutors' decision over whether to seek an arrest warrant for Roh.