The elder brother of South Korean President Lee Myung-bak was arrested and detained early yesterday pending a corruption trial, in a setback for the conservative ruling party during an election year.
The Seoul Central District Court approved prosecutors’ request for an arrest warrant for Lee Sang-deuk, a former six-term ruling party lawmaker, over a savings bank scandal.
The 76-year-old was taken to a detention center immediately after the warrant was issued. Angry bank depositors had hurled eggs at him when he arrived in court on Tuesday for questioning.
Prosecutors allege he took 600 million won (US$525,000) from chairmen of two troubled savings banks — Solomon Savings Bank and Mirae Savings Bank — between 2007 and last year in return for helping them avoid audits and punishment.
“Lee’s crimes have been ascertained and there is a reasonable concern that the suspect might attempt to destroy evidence, considering his status and political influence,” Judge Park Byoung-sam was quoted by Yonhap news agency as saying.
Regulators in May suspended four savings banks, including Solomon and Mirae, leaving many customers unable to withdraw money.
The scandal is the latest in a series of corruption cases involving people close to the president, whose five-year term ends in February. An election for his successor will be held on Dec. 19.
Chung Doo-un, a ruling party lawmaker and a close confidant of the president during the 2007 presidential campaign, was also questioned by prosecutors last week over the saving banks affair.
Parliament was scheduled to vote yesterday on whether to approve a court request for Chung’s arrest.
Lee’s three presidential predecessors — Roh Moo-hyun, Kim Dae-jung and Kim Young-sam — were tarnished by the wrongdoing of close relatives.