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Prosecutors question ex-NIS chief over provision of secret funds to ex-President Park

2017/11/10 11:46

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SEOUL, Nov. 10 (Yonhap) -- Prosecutors questioned a former chief of the National Intelligence Service on Friday over allegations the spy agency regularly provided secret funds to the presidential office while ousted President Park Geun-hye was in office.

Lee Byong-ho, former director of the National Intelligence Service, answers questions from reporters on Nov. 10, 2017. (Yonhap) Lee Byong-ho, former director of the National Intelligence Service, answers questions from reporters on Nov. 10, 2017. (Yonhap)

Lee Byong-ho, who headed the NIS from 2015-2017, appeared at the Seoul District Prosecutors' Office Friday morning to answer questions about allegations that the agency provided Cheong Wa Dae a total of about 4 billion won in the name of "special activity funds."

   "Now is the time when it is badly needed to strengthen the NIS," Lee told reporters after arriving at the prosecutors' office, referring to the prosecution's investigation. "On the contrary, the NIS sustained heavy damage and is being rocked and weakened."

   Lee is one of the three NIS directors under Park.

Park's first NIS director, Nam Jae-joon, also underwent 19 hours of questioning by prosecutors on Wednesday over the same allegations. Prosecutors plan to call in the third spy chief, Lee Byung-kee, on Monday, officials said.

The three are accused of illegally providing a total of 4 billion won (US$3.6 million) in the agency's funds to close aides to Park between 2013 and mid-2016. Prosecutors suspect the money may have been channeled into Park's secret fund.

Nam largely admitted during the questioning to sending about 50 million won to Cheong Wa Dae every month, officials said. Prosecutors suspect that the amount of monthly payment rose to about 100 million won when Lee Byung-kee and Lee Byong-ho headed the NIS.

Prosecutors are expected to look into why Park ordered an increase in the monthly payment.

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