SEOUL: The elder brother of South Korean President Lee Myung-Bak was detained early Wednesday pending trial on corruption charges, in a political 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.
Prosecutors allege that 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 2011 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.
The 76-year-old brother was taken to a detention centre immediately after the warrant was issued.
Angry people who lost deposits when savings banks were suspended had hurled eggs at the elder Lee when he arrived at court Tuesday.
Regulators in May suspended the operations of 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 2013. An election for his successor will be held on December 19.
Chung Doo-Un, an incumbent 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 is scheduled to vote Wednesday on whether to approve a court request for Chung’s arrest.