S. Korean ex-health minister detained over graft scandal

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Seoul, Dec 29 (IANS) South Korean prosecutors on Thursday detained the country’s former health minister who is now the chief of the national pension fund, for his alleged role in the corruption scandal involving a close aide of President Park Geun-hye.

Moon Hyung-pyo, who served as Health and Welfare Minister from December 2013 until August 2015, was put under “emergency detention” following interrogation by investigators, over concerns he could destroy important evidence, Efe news reported.

The investigators have also sought a formal arrest warrant against Moon.

In statements cited by news agency Yonhap, prosecutors said Moon admitted to having exerted pressure — while he was minister — on the pension fund he now heads, to secure backing for a controversial merger between two Samsung group subsidiaries last year.

It is believed the South Korean presidential office asked Moon to pressure the fund — that held an 11.6 percent stake in one of the subsidiaries — to support the merger, as a means of returning Samsung’s favour, after the conglomerate had extended favours to President Park’s friend, Choi Soon-sil, widely dubbed the “Korean Rasputin”.

Among other charges, Choi is accused of having meddled in state affairs though not holding any official post, besides extorting large sums of money from Korean companies, including Samsung, and appropriating part of it for personal use.

Following the scandal, Choi was taken into custody, while Parliament recently approved impeachment of President Park, a decision that now awaits ratification by the Constitutional Court to become final.

–IANS

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