Choi-gate: Arrest warrant out for daughter of Park's friend

A signboard outside the office of the independent counsel in Seoul (above) to mark the formal start of an inquiry into Choi-gate. Ms Chung Yoo Ra (right) sparked public ire for receiving special treatment from an elite university.
A signboard outside the office of the independent counsel in Seoul (above) to mark the formal start of an inquiry into Choi-gate. PHOTO: EUROPEAN PRESSPHOTO AGENCY
A signboard outside the office of the independent counsel in Seoul (above) to mark the formal start of an inquiry into Choi-gate. Ms Chung Yoo Ra (right) sparked public ire for receiving special treatment from an elite university.
Ms Chung Yoo Ra (above) sparked public ire for receiving special treatment from an elite university.PHOTO: EUROPEAN PRESSPHOTO AGENCY

She is now in Germany; office of pension fund raided over possible links to scandal

SEOUL • South Korea yesterday issued an arrest warrant for a daughter of the woman at the centre of President Park Geun Hye's corruption scandal, and investigators raided the National Pension Service over possible links to the scandal.

A special prosecutor's investigation has also started into the influence-peddling scandal that threatens to make Ms Park, 64, the first democratically elected leader to leave office early in disgrace.

Parliament has voted to impeach Ms Park, a move that must be confirmed or overturned by the Constitutional Court within 180 days.

A court issued an arrest warrant for 20-year-old Chung Yoo Ra, daughter of Ms Park's long-time friend Choi Soon Sil, who is in custody and on trial for fraud and abuse of power.

Ms Chung's lawyer has said she is in Germany, where she flew with her mother in September, according to media reports.

"We have Chung's arrest warrant on several charges including obstruction of justice and we plan to request the cooperation of German prosecutors based on these charges," Mr Lee Kyu Chul, a spokesman for the special prosecutor's office, told a news conference.

He said the authorities are working to invalidate Ms Chung's South Korean passport and have asked German prosecutors for information on her whereabouts and financial assets.

Ms Chung, an equestrian who competed at the 2014 Asian Games and won a gold medal in a team competition, sparked public ire earlier this year when it emerged that she had received special treatment from the prestigious Ewha Wo- mans University.

Her admission to the university was subsequently cancelled. She was also stripped of her high school diploma for fabrication of grades and attendance, according to the Seoul education office.

Also yesterday, investigators raided the office of the world's third- largest pension fund, the National Pension Service (NPS), over possible links to the scandal.

The special prosecutor's office is looking into NPS' decision last year to back the US$8 billion (S$11 billion) merger of two Samsung Group affiliates, which was criticised for strengthening the founder family's control of the group at the expense of other shareholders.

NPS was a major shareholder of both companies.

Investigators are also examining whether Samsung's support of a business and foundations backed by Choi may have been connected to NPS' support of the deal, a prosecution official told Reuters.

An office at the Ministry of Health and Welfare, which administers NPS, was also raided yesterday, a Ministry of Health and Welfare spokesman confirmed.

NPS and Samsung Group could not be reached for comment.

NPS' backing of last year's merger of Samsung C&T Corp and Cheil Industries was seen as crucial to the deal winning shareholder approval. Last month, a different team of prosecutors raided offices of Samsung and the NPS.

Meanwhile, more than 30 lawmakers from Ms Park's ruling Saenuri party who supported the impeachment vote have said they planned to break from the party.

The move would seriously undermine Saenuri's chances in the next election, which could be held as early as next March if the Constitutional Court upholds Ms Park's impeachment.

A split would also complicate a possible run by outgoing UN Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon, who had been widely expected to compete as a centre-right candidate on the Saenuri ticket.

REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 22, 2016, with the headline 'Choi-gate: Arrest warrant out for daughter of Park's friend'. Print Edition | Subscribe