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Controversy heats up over top prosecutor's alleged interference in probe involving politician

2018/05/16 12:48

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SEOUL, May 16 (Yonhap) -- South Korea's top prosecutor on Wednesday denied he exerted pressure to impede an ongoing investigation into a corruption case that is connected with a prominent lawmaker and ranking prosecutors.

A prosecution inquiry team publicly accused Prosecutor-General Moon Moo-il and other ranking officials Tuesday of interfering in the investigation into alleged unfair hiring at local casino operator Kangwon Land Co.

"I believe it's my duty to oversee and manage the prosecution so that our investigative rights are exercised in the right and fair way," Moon told reporters. "I will make sure every step in the course of the probe is taken so that it could reach a fair and right conclusion."

   The special team has been investigating allegations that high-level prosecutors pressured junior colleagues to hamper the probe into Kangwon.

It was launched after a prosecutor probing the case revealed recently that she was told by the head of the regional prosecution office not to seek arrests of those involved, including Rep. Kweon Seong-dong of the opposition Liberty Korea Party, who is the chief of the parliamentary judiciary committee.

On Tuesday, the team told a press conference that Moon blocked their move to seek arrest warrants for some ranking prosecutors implicated in the case.

Yang Bu-nam, chief of the team, said Moon has "broken his promise to guarantee investigators full independence."

   According to Yang, Moon had apparently disapproved Kangwon investigators' push to arrest prosecutor involved and ordered them to set up an advisory panel to determine the probe's next course.

In an effort to assuage growing criticism, Justice Minister Park Sang-ki on Wednesday called on the prosecution to continue the corruption probe in a "swift and impartial manner."

   "It's regrettable that the dispute seems to have shaken the prosecution and caused concern for the public," he told reporters. "I have advised the prosecutor-general to process the case based on law and principles so that it won't raise any further doubt."

  

Prosecutor-General Moon Moo-il answers questions from reporters on his way to work on May 16, 2018, about his alleged interference in a special investigation team's case involving a politician and ranking prosecutors. (Yonhap) Prosecutor-General Moon Moo-il answers questions from reporters on his way to work on May 16, 2018, about his alleged interference in a special investigation team's case involving a politician and ranking prosecutors. (Yonhap)

elly@yna.co.kr

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