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Last Updated: Monday, 29 December, 2003, 14:56 GMT
S Korea president's aides charged
South Korean President Roh Moo-hyun
Three of President Roh's aides have been charged
Three former aides of South Korean President Roh Moo-hyun have been charged with collecting illicit funds for last year's presidential elections.

Among them was Choi Do-sul, who was accused of taking almost $1.5m in illegal funding from businesses.

Allegations of corruption have been made against both the government and opposition, in a case analysts say could seriously damage President Roh.

Prosecutors said they did not intend to investigate President Roh himself.

They said that at the moment they were not looking into the president's activities because of constitutional privileges which mean that he cannot be criminally indicted.

President Roh has said that he would resign if his party were shown to have taken more than 10% cent of the illegal funding allegedly accepted by the opposition Grand National Party (GNP).

The GNP's former presidential candidate, Lee Hoi-chang, has admitted taking $43m in illegal campaign funds and has said he is ready to go to prison.

At the end of last week, prosecutors charged one of Mr Lee's aides, Suh Jong-woo, with taking $31m from a number of businesses.

Special counsel

POLITICAL FUNDING ROW
16/10 - First of two Roh aides held on slush fund allegations
28/10 - State prosecutors begin inquiry
10/11 - National Assembly votes for independent inquiry
18/11 - LG offices searched - the first of many offices raided
25/11 - Roh vetoes independent inquiry
4/12 - Parliament overturns veto
14/12 - President Roh threatens to quit over scandal
15/12 - Lee Hoi-chang takes blame for his party's illegal funding
29/12 Three Roh aides charged

In the Roh camp, most of the money allegedly accepted by Choi Do-sul was given by SK, the country's third largest conglomerate.

The other former aides to Mr Roh who have been charged with accepting illegal funds are Ahn Hee-jung and Lee Kwang-jae.

Mr Ahn is accused of accepting around $2m and Mr Lee around $130, 435.

In addition to the three political aides, five others in President Roh's circle, including confidants and businessmen, were charged on Monday.

As well as the arrest and detention of various political aides, prosecutors have also raided the offices of large business groups including, SK, LG, Hyundai and Samsung.

Although the prosecutors have said they are not at the moment investigating Mr Roh, South Korean press reports have said he attended meetings where money allegedly changed hands.

The Korea Herald reported that prosecutors had said one incident took place at a breakfast meeting after Mr Roh had left.

It involved Mr Roh's aide Lee Kwang-jae allegedly accepting a cheque for over $80,000 from Moon Byung-uk, chairman of the Sun and Moon Group.

The same newspaper said that Mr Roh was also at the scene when another aide accepted money from Mr Moon.

But it did not say whether or not Mr Roh had been present at the actual moment of transaction.

Next month a special counsel enquiry into the scandal is likely to start.

It was set-up after opposition parties, led by the GNP, overturned a presidential veto and passed a bill to appoint an independent investigator.




SEE ALSO:
'Slush' admission rocks S Korea
15 Dec 03  |  Asia-Pacific
S Korea paves way for graft inquiry
04 Dec 03  |  Asia-Pacific
S Korea slush scandal spreads
22 Oct 03  |  Asia-Pacific
S Korea political row deepens
25 Nov 03  |  Asia-Pacific
Embattled Roh seeks referendum
13 Oct 03  |  Asia-Pacific
Profile: Roh Moo-hyun
24 Feb 03  |  Asia-Pacific
Country profile: South Korea
24 May 03  |  Country profiles


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