Opposition leader’s ‘right-hand man’ appears for court hearing on arrest warrant

SEOUL– One of opposition leader Lee Jae-myung’s closest confidants attended a court hearing held Friday to determine whether he should be arrested over charges connected to a high-profile real estate development scandal.

It marked the first time that Jeong Jin-sang, the secrecy-shrouded vice chief of staff to Democratic Party (DP) Chairman Lee, also known as Lee’s “right-hand man,” has appeared before press cameras since the scandal broke out last year.

Jeong is under suspicion of taking about 140 million won (US$104,000) between 2013 and 2020 from real estate developers at the center of the corruption scandal in exchange for business favors for the project pushed for in Seongnam, south of Seoul, when Lee was its mayor.

Jeong accused the prosecution of fabricating charges against him, claiming the current prosecution’s investigation is worse than those carried out when the past military-backed authoritarian governments were in power.

“The investigation by the prosecution-led government … should also head toward those in power,” Jeong told reporters before entering the Seoul Central District Court for the hearing. “There needs to be a minimum level of balance.”

A decision on whether to approve his arrest is expected to come late Friday night or early Saturday.

The arrest warrant request suggests the investigation is closing in on Lee.

Jeong had served as a senior policy secretary to Lee while he served as the Seongnam mayor and then the governor of Gyeonggi Province surrounding Seoul.

Jeong is known as one of Lee’s two closest aides, along with Kim Yong, deputy head of the DP’s Institute for Democracy think tank, who was indicted last week on charges of receiving hundreds of millions of won in illegal political funds from the property developers.

Jeong is also facing suspicions that he was promised a 24.5 percent stake worth 42.8 billion won in the lucrative development project in the Daejang-dong district of Seongnam, in return for business favors given to the real estate developers, including Kim Man-bae.

Charges against him also include destruction of evidence for telling Yoo Dong-gyu, former acting president of Seongnam Development Corp. and a key suspect in the development scandal, to throw his mobile phone out the window when prosecutors raided his home in September last year.

Source: Yonhap News Agency

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