Two S. Korean ex-spy chiefs arrested over corruption

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– Two former heads of South Korea’s spy agency were arrested Friday on suspicion of paying bribes to aides of ousted ex-president Park Geun-Hye, as a sweeping corruption scandal rocks the country’s political and business elite.

Nam Jae-Joon and Lee Byung-Kee, ex-heads of the National Intelligence Service (NIS), were arrested for allegedly handing a total of 4 billion won (US$3.63 million, RM20.01 million) of their agency’s budget to Park’s aides in monthly payments in exchange for career advancement.

The Seoul Central District Court approved the arrest warrants on the two, citing flight risk or the to destroy evidence.

Former South Korean leader Park was toppled this year and is in jail while on a trial over accusations of graft and influence-peddling.

Nam and Lee, who respectively served under Park from 2013 to 2015, face charges including embezzlement, bribery and causing losses on state coffers.

The pair reportedly told prosecutors that they had offered the “monthly payment” to Park’s office at the personal request of Park’s key aides.

Two former key aides to Park were arrested earlier this month on suspicion of squeezing the money from the NIS and reportedly told investigators they had done so at the president’s order.

South Korea’s spy agency has already been at the centre of accusations that it abused its power to meddle in local politics under two former conservative presidents.

A former senior NIS official was detained last month for allegedly leading a string of operations to monitor and undermine high-profile figures and celebrities critical of Park and her predecessor.

Ex-spy chief, Won Sei-Hoon, was jailed for three years in Aug for ordering NIS officials to mount an online smear campaign against Park’s key rival in the 2012 presidential candidate.

The closely-fought election saw Park defeat Moon Jae-In from the left-leaning opposition party.

Moon was elected earlier this year after Park’s impeachment over the corruption scandal that also implicated the country’s top business group, Samsung.

Park is accused of offering policy favours to business tycoons who helped enrich her secret confidante, Choi Soon-Sil, as well as allowing her friend, who had no title or security clearance, handle state affairs including senior nominations.

Both Park and Choi are in prison while on trial over charges including bribery and abuse of power.

Samsung heir Lee Jae-Yong is also in jail, appealing against his five-year prison term over bribery and perjury. – AFP