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SKorean ex-leader's son, wife grilled over graft

State prosecutors in South Korea questioned the wife and son of former president Roh Moo-Hyun in an escalating corruption probe, officials said Sunday.

Roh Geon-Ho, 35, who returned from work in the United States late Saturday, presented himself for questioning Sunday morning, Supreme Prosecutors' Office spokesman Cho Eun-Seok told AFP.

"Mr. Roh Geon-Ho is being questioned as a witness, not as a suspect yet," Cho said.

The former leader's wife, Kwon Yang-Sook, was quizzed for 11 hours Saturday after being summoned as "a witness" to a prosecutor's office in the southeast city of Busan, Cho said later.

Kwon and Roh were both quizzed about any involvement in a graft scandal in which a shoe manufacturer, Park Yeon-Cha, is alleged to have bribed people of influence, including relatives or confidants of the ex-president, Cho added.

Posecutors suspect that Park, who was arrested in December on tax evasion and graft charges, provided millions of dollars to Roh's relatives and aides, according to Seoul's Yonhap news agency.

Yeon Chul-Ho, husband of one of Roh's nieces, and Jung Sang-Moon, a former aide to Roh, are already under investigation in relation to the same case.

Seoul's YTN cable news channel said Sunday the former president may face a prosecution summons himself for questioning in the upcoming week.

Prosecutors refused to comment on that report.

The case is a serious blow to Roh, who was elected as president in 2002 on the back of a popular anti-corruption campaign.

Last week, the former president apologised in an Internet message over the corruption scandal, admitting Kwon had taken money from Park to pay off debts. It was unclear whether it was a loan.

"I feel deeply ashamed... and apologise from the bottom of my heart," said Roh, who was in office from 2003 to 2008, adding he would give details to the prosecution.

Yonhap said Park provided more than a million dollars to Roh and his wife through Jung, and another five million dollars to Yeon.

The businessman has told investigators that, while in office, Roh himself asked for one million dollars in 2007, according to Yonhap.

Moon Jae-In, former chief secretary to Roh, said the ex-president and his son have nothing to do with the five million dollars Yeon received from Park.

"The money does not belong to former President Roh, nor to his son," Moon told Yonhap. "Geon-Ho might have met with Park together with Yeon, but he has nothing to do with the money."

Park, once a key financial backer of the former leader, is also alleged to have bribed politicians and government officials.

Roh's older brother Roh Gun-Pyeong has already been indicted for allegedly colluding with Park to broker the buyout of an ailing securities firm from a state-run company in 2006.

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Publication:AFP Asian Edition
Date:Apr 12, 2009
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