South Korean prosecutors on Wednesday issued an arrest warrant for the daughter of the woman at the center of President Park Geun-hye’s influence-peddling scandal and investigators raided the National Pension Service over possible links to the corruption case.
A special prosecutor’s investigation started on Monday into the scandal that threatens to make Park, 64, the first democratically-elected leader to leave office early in disgrace. Parliament has voted to impeach her, a decision that must be confirmed or overturned by the Constitutional Court.
A court issued an arrest warrant on Wednesday for Chung Yoo-ra, the 20-year-old daughter of Choi Soon-sil, Park’s long-time friend who is in custody and on trial for fraud and abuse of power.
Chung’s lawyer has said she is in Germany, where she flew with her mother and child in September, according to media reports.
“We have Chung’s arrest warrant on several charges including obstruction of justice and we plan to request the cooperation of German prosecutors based on these charges,” Lee Kyu-chul, a spokesman for the special prosecutor’s office, told a news conference.
Lee said authorities are working to invalidate Chung’s South Korean passport and have asked German prosecutors for information on her whereabouts and financial assets.
Chung, an equestrian athlete who competed in the 2014 Asian Games and won a gold medal in a team competition, sparked public ire earlier this year when it emerged that she had received special treatment from the prestigious Ewha Womans University.
Her admission to the university was subsequently cancelled. She was also stripped of her high school diploma for fabrication of grades and attendance, according to the Seoul education office.
Pension office raided
Hours earlier, investigators raided the office of the world’s third-largest pension fund, the National Pension Service (NPS), over possible links to the scandal.
The special prosecutor’s office is looking into NPS’ decision last year to back the US$8 billion merger of two Samsung Group affiliates, which was criticized for strengthening the founder family’s control of the group at the expense of other shareholders.
The NPS was a major shareholder of both companies.
Investigators are also examining whether Samsung’s support of a business and foundations backed by Choi may have been connected to support by NPS for the deal, a prosecution official said.
Meanwhile, more than 30 lawmakers from Park’s ruling Saenuri Party who supported the impeachment vote announced on Wednesday they plan to break from the party, a move that will undermine the party’s position in the 300-member chamber.
The conservative Saenuri Party currently holds 128 seats.
Park’s possible impeachment has upended politics in South Korea, where, if she leaves officer early, an election will be held in 60 days.
Park was stripped of her powers, which are now held by the country’s prime minister.