South Korea’s opposition leader has been booked on the charge of third-party bribery in connection with a company’s allegedly illegal money transfers to arch-rival North Korea, local media reported on Tuesday.
Prosecutors in the Suwon district, the capital of South Korea’s most populous Gyeonggi-do province, is investigating allegations that Ssangbangwool Group, an underwear manufacturer, unlawfully remitted $8 million to North Korea between January 2019 and January 2020 on behalf of the Gyeonggi province, Seoul-based Yonhap News said, citing legal sources.
Lee Jae-myung, the chairman of the country’s main opposition Democratic Party (DP) and an ex-presidential candidate, served as Gyeonggi’s governor from 2018 to 2021.
Prosecutors suspect that $3 million was intended to facilitate Lee’s planned visit to Pyongyang, while the remaining amount was meant for Gyeonggi’s smart farm support program in North Korea.
The prosecution believes that Lee was involved in the process of transferring $3 million and has applied the charge of third-party bribery against him.
A public official who causes, demands or promises a bribe to a third party upon acceptance of an unjust solicitation in connection with their duties could face up to five years in jail, according to South Korea’s criminal code.
Lee was arrested in September last year for accepting bribes from the company and was additionally indicted in March in connection with the cash transfer case.
Former chairman of the group, Kim Seong-tae, was also arrested and indicted in the same case.
The opposition leader was already indicted in two corruption cases in March.