Korean opposition lawmaker grilled over illicit funds

Korean opposition lawmaker grilled over illicit funds
New Politics Alliance for Democracy’s Rep. Shin Hak-yong answers journalists’ questions before entering the Seoul Central District Prosecutors’ Office in southern Seoul .

SEOUL - The prosecution said Monday that it questioned a main opposition party lawmaker over alleged illegal fund-raising in return for political favors.

Rep. Shin Hak-yong of New Politics Alliance of Democracy is suspected of creating a slush fund of around 100 million won ($92,000) with the money he pocketed from salaries of his three aides between 2007 and last year.

Investigators believe that the 63-year-old three-term lawmaker took the money in exchange for helping them get party nominations for local elections.

Two of the aides were elected as councilors of local assemblies in the last two elections held in 2010 and 2014.

The prosecution said they would question Shin on whether he was involved in creating the illegal fund and pulled strings to help them get party nomination to run for local assembly seats.

Shin has denied the allegations.

"The allegations (of creating a slush fund from salaries of the aides) are not true," Shin told reporters before entering the Seoul Central District Prosecutor's Office.

"It is unthinkable for me to exercise influence on party nominations."

Investigators have requested Shin to appear for questioning multiple times since last year. But the lawmaker disobeyed a summons, citing schedule conflicts.

As part of the investigation, the prosecution raided the homes and offices of the three concerned political aides and summoned them last year.

The lawmaker is currently standing trial over a separate case of bribery.

He is suspected of having received kickbacks from the head of Seoul Art College in return for helping it change its name.

The college chairman had offered bribes to Shin and his colleagues to omit the term "vocational" from the school's original name, prosecutors said.

He is also accused of taking bribes from a kindergarten union for allowing special benefits.

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