(LEAD) Independent counsel creates special team to check Choi’s wealth

The independent counsel team investigating the alleged corruption scandal centered on President Park Geun-hye said Friday that it has created a special team that will delve into the suspicious accumulation of wealth by her long-time friend Choi Soon-sil.

The 60-year-old confidante Choi, who is has been in custody since late October, allegedly exerted influence on state affairs for personal benefit, using her ties to the president.

The counsel said the team has hired a lawyer and well as a former executive of the state tax agency to track Choi's assets at home and abroad amid allegations she stashed large sums of money in foreign countries.

There have been rumors that Choi held considerable assets inherited from her late father, but the details were never revealed.

Choi is the fifth daughter of Park's late mentor Choi Tae-min. The late Choi, who used to lead a religious cult, had reportedly advised Park since her mother, Yook Young-soo, was assassinated by a North Korea sympathizer in 1974.

Sources said that the team will track down assets belonging to Choi's family over the past 40 years.

If it is revealed that Park helped the Choi family accumulate assets, the president could face additional questioning and may have to explain why she "conspired" with her friend, as state prosecutors claimed, after assuming office in early 2013, legal experts said.

None of the charges leveled against the two have yet to be proven in the court of law with both Park and Choi rejecting charges of any unlawful actions or deals.

The team, however, said it has not yet decided to investigate the whereabouts of Park during the sinking of the Sewol ferry in 2014 that claimed more than 300 lives.

While the presidential office has been claiming Park faithfully did what she could in the aftermath of the tragedy, critics have argued she was engaged in personal matters.

The team's spokesman said it is reviewing legal issues to determine whether her whereabouts can actually be subject to a probe.

Source: Yonhap News Agency

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