'Illegal funds offered to Park's backers'
Rep. Hyun Young-hee of the ruling Saenuri Party, who is under suspicion of buying her nomination for April’s parliamentary elections, allegedly offered illegal political funds to two pro-Park Geun-hye figures.
Prosecutors said Wednesday Hyun testified she gave 3 to 5 million won each to former lawmakers Lee Jung-hyun and Hyeon Gyeong-dae by using the name of one of her former aides when they ran in the elections under the party’s ticket. Both failed to get a National Assembly seat.
The testimony is likely to deal a blow to Park, the frontrunner presidential contender,
According to the prosecution, Rep. Hyun’s former aide, Jeong Dong-geun who reported her irregularities to the authorities, proposed she give the illegal funds to the influential pro-Park figures.
She handed over 10 million won to Jeong, who then sent it to Lee and Hyeon. The money was offered not under Rep. Hyun’s name but under Jeong and his wife’s.
“We are examining whether Rep. Hyun attempted to purchase her nomination by providing the kickbacks to the pro-Park figures. The false-name financial support will be considered a violation of the Political Funds Law,” a prosecutor at the Busan District Prosecutors’ Office said.
Prosecutors suspect she offered illegal political funds under borrowed names to at least two more senior members of the party.
But Lee and Hyeon deny the allegation. They said they were victimized, saying they can’t confirm every sender of sponsored funds, especially if the money is sent under a false name.
In a related investigation, prosecutors raided the homes and offices of former lawmaker Hyun to secure evidence of accepting money from Rep. Hyun after confirming he contacted his former aide Cho Ki-moon on the day of the alleged bribery — contrary to his claim that he didn’t.
Jeong told prosecutors he got 300 million won in a paper bag from Rep. Hyun in Busan and delivered this to Cho at a restaurant in Seoul Station on March 15. He claimed Cho and the former lawmaker exchanged text messages.
Both Cho and the former lawmaker denied meeting, but prosecutors confirmed they talked on the day on cell phones. They also seized a luxury bag from Cho’s home, which Jeong claimed Cho used to transfer the money.
The former lawmaker was banned from leaving the country.
Prosecutors said Cho has kept changing his testimony. He first said he was not even in Seoul on the day, but later admitted to meeting Jeong but denied receiving money. However, he said Wednesday he took 5 million won, not 30 million won, adding Rep. Hyun gave the 5 million won not to the former lawmaker but to Cho himself for his activities as a politician’s aide.
Rep. Hyun also said the same thing, but prosecutors suspect she and Cho cooked up the story.