S Korea president’s brother quizzed in land-deal probe

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 01 November, 2012, 2:46pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 01 November, 2012, 3:52pm

The brother of South Korean President Lee Myung-bak appeared before a special prosecutor on Thursday over alleged irregularities in a project to build the president’s retirement home.

Lee Sang-eun, 79, was called to testify about a 600 million won (US$542,000) loan he gave to his nephew and the president’s only son, Lee Si-hyung.

“I’ll explain everything in there,” Lee, the eldest of the president’s two brothers, told reporters before entering the prosecutor’s office in southern Seoul.

The case centres around the joint purchase last year by the president’s son and the presidential security service of a plot of land on the southern edge of the capital for a now-scrapped retirement home project.

As well as a house for the president, who leaves office at the beginning of next year, the site would have included facilities for security personnel.

But the cost was allegedly not split evenly, with suggestions that the security service paid too high a price for its share, while Lee’s son got a below-market rate for the residential plot.

Lee Si-hyung testified before the special prosecutor last week.

Investigators previously raided Lee Sang-eun’s home as well as his offices at auto seat maker DAS, where he serves as chairman, in the southeastern city of Gyeongju.

The presidential Blue House has denied opposition claims of financial chicanery. But in the face of criticism, the president scrapped the whole project and decided to move into his existing private house in southern Seoul after leaving office.