UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon Denies Bribery Charges

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon Denies Bribery Charges

SEOUL, Dec. 25 (Yonhap) -- Ban Ki-moon, the outgoing U.N. chief, on Sunday dismissed a news report that he took cash from a South Korean businessman in the 2000s at the center of a high-profile bribery scandal.

  The Sisa Journal, a weekly magazine in Seoul, reported that Ban received around US$200,000 from Park Yeon-cha, a local businessman, while serving as South Korea's foreign minister. It cited unnamed multiple sources. Park was convicted in a bribery case involving the older brother of late President Roh Moo-hyun and Roh's top aides.

   Ban, who seems to be seeking to run in the South Korean presidential elections next year, worked as Seoul's top diplomat under the Roh administration. He's leaving the U.N. in January after 10 years as the head of the global organization.

   Ban strongly denied the allegations and asked the magazine to offer a formal apology and withdraw the report.

  In a press statement released late Saturday (New York time), U.N. spokesman Stephane Dujarric called the suspicions "completely false and groundless." He added a related official letter will be sent to the editor-in-chief of the Sisa Journal.

Speaking to Yonhap News Agency by phone, Park also said the news report does not make any sense.

   He said, "I have not met Ban in person" during dinner at his official residence in May 2005, when the magazine said Ban took money in a paper bag from Park.

   It also reported, citing a person close to Park, that Park asked the owner of a restaurant in New York to deliver another $30,000 to Ban in early 2007, right after Ban was elected U.N. secretary general. The money was allegedly given to Ban.

   State prosecutors covered up the case out of concern that it would harm national interests, even though it had secured testimony from Park in March 2009 that he gave money to Ban, according to the report.

    A former chief prosecutor who led an investigation into the so-called "Park Yeon-cha Gate" was guarded about the news report.

    "Many people have been calling me since this morning, but I don't know anything about it," said Lee In-kyu, former chief investigator at the Supreme Prosecutors' Office, told Yonhap.

     He added that even if it were true, the 2005 incident won't be prosecutable because the statute of limitations on a bribery charge is 10 years.'

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