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Prosecutors seek arrest warrant for key suspect in nomination scandal

BUSAN, Aug. 10 — State prosecutors said Thursday they have sought an arrest warrant for a former official of the ruling Saenuri Party over allegations he took 300 million won (US$ 265,960) from a lawmaker hopeful in exchange for helping her win a seat in parliament.

The allegation is only part of a wider claim that the money was later delivered to Hyun Ki-hwan, then a member of a party committee responsible for nominating candidates for the April parliamentary elections. Prosecutors said they are still investigating that claim.

The warrant was sought for Cho Ki-moon, a former official of the party's Busan branch, on suspicion he took the money from then-lawmaker hopeful Hyun Young-hee in return for helping her secure a proportional representative seat. Hyun is now a lawmaker for Saenuri.

The scandal has dealt a blow to the party and its leading presidential contender Park Geun-hye with the presidential election just four months away. Park was chief of the party when the alleged money exchange took place in March.

Prosecutors said Cho received the money through one of Hyun's aides at a train station in Seoul.

"Based on (the aide's) testimony and objective evidence, there are clear indications of the crime and due to concerns (Cho) may try to destroy evidence, it is necessary to conduct an investigation with the suspect in custody," a prosecution official said. He justified the arrest by stressing the sheer gravity of the case and its potential fallout.

State prosecutors also said they discovered a large sum of money in a bank account belonging to a financial executive who works for Rep. Hyun's husband, and plan to summon him for questioning.

Cho has denied the allegations, saying he received only 5 million from Rep. Hyun to cover his expenses during a Seoul trip aimed at collecting information on the nomination process. He has claimed he returned 4.5 million to the lawmaker after giving 500,000 to her aide for his services.

Meanwhile, the Saenuri Party launched a separate internal investigation into the case earlier in the day as it tried to minimize the scandal's impact on the party's image and its top presidential hopeful. (PNA/Yonhap)

LOR/rsm

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