President’s brother to be summoned

Lee Sang-deuk faces bribery allegations

A grim-faced Lee Sang-deuk, a former lawmaker and older brother of President Lee Myung-bak, is seated with closed eyes in the National Assembly in this file photo taken in April last year. / Yonhap

The prosecution said Thursday it will summon the elder brother of President Lee Myung-bak, a former ruling party lawmaker, next Tuesday to question him on allegations of bribe-taking from two suspended savings banks.

The Central Investigation Bureau at the Supreme Prosecutors’ Office said it has decided to question Lee Sang-deuk, 76, over his alleged involvement in a bribery scandal.

An official said that it was inevitable to launch an investigation into Lee as there have been allegations that he took huge sums from Prime Savings Bank and Solomon Savings Bank in return for business favors.

“We’ll conduct a fair and thorough probe into Lee to check if he was involved in the bribery scandal involving savings banks,” he said.

The prosecution refused to give further details, but it is believed that investigators have secured convincing clues regarding Lee’s involvement.

Lee has already faced other allegations of corruption since his younger brother was inaugurated as President in February 2008.

Sources close to the prosecution said that Lee, a six-time lawmaker and former National Assembly speaker, allegedly took 400 million won ($346,200) from Kim Sun-kyo, CEO of Prime that was suspended in March 2011 for accounting fraud and illegal lending practices.

The bank was found to have offered bribes to a number of politicians and financial regulators to stay afloat in the wake of the global financial crisis in 2007.

The sources also said that Lee allegedly accepted hundreds of millions of won from Lim Suk, the chairman of Solomon.

Solomon is one of four troubled banks, whose operations were suspended in May for their failure to meet the capital adequacy ratio recommended by the Bank for International Settlements. Lim allegedly gave millions of won to the elder Lee to help his bank avoid a forced exit from the market.

The summons of Lee is expected to deal a further setback to President Lee, who is already reeling from a series of corruption scandals involving his close aides.

Lee Sang-deuk has been dogged by a set of corruption allegations.

The prosecution has been tracing the source of 700 million won ($605,800) deposited in a bank account of one of Lee’s secretaries. The former lawmaker turned down any allegations of bribery, claiming the money was his own and he asked his secretary to manage the amount.

But the prosecution seems to believe that he amassed the money when the troubled savings banks began to offer bribes to big-name politicians, bureaucrats and regulators to avoid their suspension.

The elder Lee has come under criticism for peddling influence under the Lee Myung-bak administration along with Choi Si-joong, former chairman of the Korea Communications (KCC) and Park Young-june, former knowledge economy vice minister. Both Choi and Park have already been indicted on corruption charges. <The Korea Times/Yi Whan-woo>

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