Ex-spy chief arrested over graft allegations

SEOUL, July 10 (Yonhap) -- A former intelligence chief was formally detained Wednesday to undergo further questioning over allegations that he accepted bribes from a construction company in return for peddling influence.

Won Sei-hoon was put under detention immediately after the Seoul Central District Court approved the prosecution's request for an arrest warrant for the disgraced ex-spymaster who is also standing trial on charges of meddling in last year's presidential election.

Won, who served as the National Intelligence Service (NIS) chief under former President Lee Myung-bak until early this year, is suspected of accepting some 150 million won (US$132,000) in kickbacks from the head of now-bankrupt Hwangbo Construction, prosecutors said.

"(Won's) crimes have been ascertained, and there is a reasonable concern that the suspect might attempt to destroy evidence or flee," Judge Kim Woo-soo said.

Won is the first aide of former President Lee to be arrested on corruption charges since President Park Geun-hye took office in February.

The Seoul Central District Prosecutors' Office probing the case requested an arrest warrant for Won on Friday, saying his detention is necessary given the seriousness of the charges against him.

Prosecutors said they suspect the former spy chief has received cash and gifts including expensive bags from Hwang Bo-yeon, former Hwangbo chief, since 2009.

In return, Won allegedly peddled his influence to help the company get major construction projects from public institutions and large corporations, they added.

Before entering a court hearing held earlier in the day, the 62-year-old Won denied the charges against him, saying that the gifts from Hwang were for his birthday.

Hwang has already been arrested on charges of embezzling about 2.3 billion won in company funds and fraudulently taking loans of about 4.3 billion won.

In a separate case, Won was indicted last month on charges of ordering some of his agents to use the Internet to sway public opinion in favor of President Park Geun-hye, the then ruling party candidate, ahead of December's presidential election.

Won served as first vice-mayor of Seoul when former President Lee was the mayor. He played a leading role in Lee's major projects such as the restoration of Cheonggye Stream in downtown Seoul, the redevelopment of run-down residential areas and the restructuring of the public transportation system.

Won was also the minister of public administration and security under the Lee administration.

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