Former spy chief arrested for diverting official expenses into political campaign

Lim Chang-won Reporter

Posted : 2017-11-14 11:07 | Updated : 2017-11-14 11:07

Lee Byung-kee, who served as National Intelligence Service (NIS) chief from July 2014 and March 2015, was put under emergency detention on November 14. [Photo by Yoo Dae-gil = dbeorlf123@ajunews.com]


A former spy chief was arrested in a probe by state prosecutors into allegations that he had diverted official expenses for his agency into regular payments to the office of jailed ex-president Park Geun-hye for illegal political activities.

Prosecutors said Lee Byung-kee, who served as National Intelligence Service (NIS) chief from July 2014 and March 2015, was put under emergency detention on Tuesday. A formal arrest warrant could be sought later.

Park's office is suspected of using NIS money for improper political and other activities. Opposition legislators argued NIS payments to the presidential office have been a practice.

The former spy chief was dragged into the office of prosecutors Monday on suspicion of channeling about four billion won (3.57 million US dollars) from NIS coffers into Park's office. Two former presidential officials were already arrested on bribery charges as part of an investigation into alleged wrongdoing by the governments of  Park and her predecessor, Lee Myung-bak.

Former NIS officials have been arrested on charges of meddling in elections and blacklisting outspoken figures. Conservative groups have voiced concern about political retaliation.

"I began to doubt whether this is reform, emotional or political retaliation," Lee Byung-bak, 75, said after former defense minister Kim Kwan-jin was arrested on Saturday over his ink to political activities by an army cyber command to help the former leader's election campaign.

" I think that indiscriminate and unfair treatment of our military or intelligence organizations makes our security even more dangerous," said the ex-president who took office in early 2008 after succeeding Roh Moo-hyun, a liberal leader who jumped from a mountain cliff behind his rural home in 2009 when prosecutors questioned him for alleged bribery involving his family.