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(LEAD) Prosecutors raid defense agency over info leak

2016/11/16 20:22

(ATTN: ADDS DAPA spokesman's comment in 6th para)

SEOUL, Nov. 16 (Yonhap) -- South Korean prosecutors said Wednesday they are investigating allegations that a military procurement official leaked confidential information on military equipment to BAE Systems, a British defense contractor.

Investigators from the Seoul Central District Prosecutors' Office raided the offices of the state Defense Acquisition Program Administration (DAPA) Tuesday and detained the official in charge of contracts for questioning.

The prosecution declined to elaborate, as the case is still under investigation.

"Prosecutors spotted a possible leakage of confidential information to a foreign defense industry company while they were investigating DAPA's mismanagement of a project to upgrade KF-16 fighter jets," a military official familiar with the matter told Yonhap News Agency.

DAPA confirmed the prosecutors' raid on its offices that handle defense contracts and made an apology.

"We are working with the Defense Security Command on countermeasures that ensure this kind of incident won't happen again," DAPA spokesman Kim Si-cheol said in a press briefing.

Last week, prosecutors detected a sizable amount of confidential military information leaked to BAE Systems after they raided the Seoul office of the British defense and aerospace company as part of the investigation.

The prosecution then stormed the home of the suspect and summoned three other officials as witnesses, the official said.

In this photo, taken on Dec. 1, 2016, a KF-16 fighter jet is about to take off in a landing and takeoff exercise held in Changnyeong, South Gyeongsang Province. (Yonhap) In this photo, taken on Dec. 1, 2016, a KF-16 fighter jet is about to take off in a landing and takeoff exercise held in Changnyeong, South Gyeongsang Province. (Yonhap)

BAE Systems won the 1.8 trillion won contract arranged by DAPA in 2011. But the project, aimed at improving the warfare capabilities of the Air Force's main fleet of 134 KF-16s, was suspended in September last year after BAE demanded an additional payment of 800 billion won ($683 million), claiming the costs would be higher than initially estimated.

In December, DAPA changed the contractor to Lockheed Martin Corp. and postponed the project's launch from 2011 to 2015.

In the same month, the Board of Audit and Inspection (BAI) found the project resulted in a waste of US$89 million in taxpayer money. The state auditor referred the case to the prosecution. The BAI suspects that the DAPA gave favors to the British company, such as allowing it to modify its proposal.

kyongae.choi@yna.co.kr

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