Prosecutors on Monday requested an arrest warrant for opposition leader Lee Jae-myung on breach of trust, bribery and other charges related to a scandal-ridden land development scandal and allegations of his involvement in a company’s illegal cash remittance to North Korea.
The Seoul Central District Prosecutors Office made the request, accusing Lee of committing breach of trust worth 20 billion won (US$15.06 million) by giving special treatment to a private developer in Seongnam’s Baekhyeon-dong district apartment project between 2014 and 2015, when he was serving as the city’s mayor.
The prosecution’s arrest warrant request came soon after Lee was taken to a hospital in the morning due to deteriorating health from his hunger strike that entered the 19th day. Lee was almost unconscious after showing a sharp drop in blood sugar levels and was brought to a nearby hospital at 7:10 a.m.
The Seoul Central District Court delivered the request to the government later in the day.
Upon the approval of President Yoon Suk Yeol, the justice ministry is expected to report the motion to the National Assembly on Wednesday, which will likely put it to a vote the following day.
The Assembly’s consent is necessary to arrest Lee because by law, legislators are immune from arrest while the parliament is in session, a measure designed to shield lawmakers from political persecution.
In order for the motion to pass, it requires a majority of the Assembly members to vote and a majority of those voting to cast their ballots in favor.
The motion can be rejected if lawmakers of the main opposition Democratic Party vote against it, as the party holds a majority in the Assembly.
Prosecutors suspect Lee had inflicted a loss of about 20 billion won to the city government through the alleged favoritism surrounding the project to develop the former site of the Korea Food Research Institute into apartment complexes.
The private developer, named Seongnam R&D PFV, allegedly earned windfall profits after Lee’s city government somehow canceled an original plan to build rental homes there and instead allowed the developer to sell homes to consumers.
Lee is also suspected of asking Ssangbangwool Group, an underwear maker, to illegally transfer $8 million to North Korea between 2019 and 2020, when he was serving as Gyeonggi Province governor, through his deputy to facilitate his visit to the North and push for a joint smart farm project between his province and Pyongyang.
In addition, Lee is accused of asking a businessman to give false testimony in his favor in a court hearing on a 2019 election law violation case involving one of his acquaintances.
A court hearing on Lee’s arrest warrant can be held only after the Assembly approves his arrest motion in a plenary vote.
The prosecution’s previous attempt to detain Lee on allegations of corruption in two other cases — Seongnam’s Daejang-dong development scandal and controversial corporate donations to the city’s football club — fell through in February this year after the parliamentary disapproval of his arrest motion.
Lee has since expressed an intention to give up his immunity from arrest, which is guaranteed by the Constitution for sitting National Assembly members.
Source: Yonhap News Agency