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Court denies arrest warrant for opposition lawmaker in illegal hiring case

2018/07/05 00:22

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SEOUL, July 5 (Yonhap) -- A Seoul court turned down a prosecution request early Thursday for a warrant to arrest a prominent opposition lawmaker on corruption charges.

The Seoul Central District Court denied the writ against Rep. Kweon Seong-dong of the main opposition Liberty Korea Party (LKP), saying that the accusations were disputable and that he presents a low risk of fleeing or destroying evidence.

The three-time lawmaker is accused of pressuring Kangwon Land Inc. in late 2013 to hire his two former aides and 16 others, including children of his high school friends. Prosecutors filed for a writ in May on charges of abuse of power, bribery and obstruction of business.

He is also suspected of exerting power on trade ministry officials to have one of his friends named an outside director at the casino operator, located in Gangwon Province, to which Kweon's constituency belongs. Prosecutors suspect he, in return, helped the firm easily pass a government audit.

Appearing at the courthouse for arraignment on Wednesday, he made an apology to the public for causing concerns but flatly denied involvement in the alleged illegal recruitment.

It took nearly two months for the court to arraign the prosecutor-turned-lawmaker as he was immune from detention while the National Assembly was in session and the parliament refused to vote on the motion regarding his arrest.

The case took a twist last week when Kweon offered to give up his privilege and show up for the arraignment.

The high-profile scandal has spawned the launch of an independent prosecution inquiry after a prosecutor who was probing the case revealed that it had already been compromised by Kweon, chairman of the parliament's judiciary committee, and by ranking prosecutors.

The independent probe team has been at odds with sitting Prosecutor-General Moon Moo-il and has publicly accused him of blocking their investigation into the top prosecutors implicated in the case.

Rep. Kweon Seong-dong (C) of the main opposition Liberty Korea Party enters the Seoul Central District Court for a hearing on his arrest warrant on July 4, 2018. (Yonhap) Rep. Kweon Seong-dong (C) of the main opposition Liberty Korea Party enters the Seoul Central District Court for a hearing on his arrest warrant on July 4, 2018. (Yonhap)

elly@yna.co.kr

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