Police transfer opposition leader Lee’s alleged third-party bribery case to prosecution

SUWON, South Korea-- Police wrapped up their reinvestigation into allegations of opposition leader Lee Jae-myung's third-party bribery surrounding a corporate donation to a football club years ago and transferred the case to the prosecution with an opinion of indictment Tuesday.

The Gyeonggi Nambu Provincial Police Agency reinvestigated the allegations that the city of Seongnam, just south of Seoul, had attracted hefty donations from companies to a municipal football club in the mid-2010s, when the chairman of the main opposition Democratic Party (DP) was serving as its mayor.

The police agency reportedly told the prosecution that a third-party bribery charge can be applied to Lee in connection with donations totaling 5.5 billion won (US$4 million) made between 2014-2016 by Doosan Engineering & Construction Co. to Seongnam FC, then headed by Lee.

Lee is suspected of changing the city's usage purpose for a 9,900-square-meter section of land owned by Doosan in the Bundang district from a hospital to commerce in return for the company's donation provided in the name of advertising expenses. Thanks to the zoning change, Doosan is said to have made huge profits, as the value of its Bundang property reportedly skyrocketed from 7 billion won to about 1 trillion won.

The police agency added that a Seongnam city government official and a former Doosan Engineering CEO surnamed Lee can also be indicted over third-party bribery charges.

The city of Seongnam also received hefty donations for Seongnam FC from five other entities, including internet portal giant Naver Corp. and Nonghyup Bank.

Following an initial investigation into the case, however, the Bundang Police Station decided in September last year to clear Lee of third-party bribery charges regarding all six donors and Seongnam FC because of what it said was a lack of evidence.

But the prosecution asked police to reinvestigate the case in February this year and the Gyeonggi police agency carried it out. The police agency still cleared Lee of third-party bribery suspicions related to the five donors, except Doosan.

The latest police move came after prosecutors indicted Lee last week for allegations that he violated the election law by making false statements related to two land development projects in Seongnam during his presidential campaign last year.

Lee ran for president as the DP candidate but was narrowly defeated by People Power Party candidate Yoon Suk-yeol. Lee was elected the DP's new chairman last month.

Source: Yonhap News Agency