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Prosecutors seek arrest warrants for three key suspects in NIS election-meddling scandal

2017/09/14 17:57

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SEOUL, Sept. 14 (Yonhap) -- Prosecutors on Thursday requested warrants to arrest three key figures in the state spy agency's online smear campaign under the two past conservative governments.

The Seoul Central District Prosecutors' Office said an arrest warrant was filed for Min Byung-joo, former head of the National Intelligence Service's (NIS) psychological operation unit, on charges of embezzling national funds.

Min is accused of spending billions of won paying NIS retirees and civilians to write Internet comments maligning key figures from the liberal bloc in the run up to the 2012 presidential election and in favor of then conservative candidate Park Geun-hye.

It is also seeking warrants for an ex-leader of a conservative civic group, only identified by his last name Song, and a former NIS staff surnamed Moon in the psychological warfare division on charges of misappropriation and fraud.

They are alleged to have pocketed the cyberteam expenses for personal use.

Min has already been convicted of interfering in politics in breach of NIS laws and received a suspended sentence, along with then NIS chief Won Sei-hoon, who got a four-year jail term for masterminding the illicit cyber operation. Won is awaiting the top court's decision.

The prosecution has been widening the high-profile investigation since liberal President Moon Jae-in took office in May following the ouster of his predecessor Park Geun-hye over a massive corruption scandal.

An internal probe by the NIS found that the agency ran 30 such "cyberteams" to influence public opinion from 2009-2012 under Won's direction.

The investigation has drawn attention as to whether it will eventually target then President Lee Myung-bak, whose five-year term ended in early 2013.