Ex-defense chief banned from travel over Marine’s death prior to appointment as ambassador: sources

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Ex-defense chief banned from travel over Marine's death prior to appointment as ambassador: sources
Ex-defense chief banned from travel over Marine's death prior to appointment as ambassador: sources

The CIO has been looking into allegations that Lee exerted influence to hold off the findings of an internal probe by the Marines into Chae’s death.

SEOUL, March 6 (Yonhap): The anti-corruption investigation office imposed a travel ban on former Defense Minister Lee Jong-sup over an alleged influence-peddling case related to the death of a young Marine, months before he was named the new top envoy to Australia, sources said Wednesday.

The Corruption Investigation Office for High-ranking Officials (CIO) banned Lee from leaving South Korea in January, sources with knowledge of the matter said.

On Monday, the foreign ministry announced Lee’s appointment as the new ambassador to Australia, which drew criticism as Lee has been a subject in the CIO probe in connection with the death of Cpl. Chae Su-geun, who died in July last year while on a search mission amid heavy downpours.

The CIO has been looking into allegations that Lee exerted influence to hold off the findings of an internal probe by the Marines into Chae’s death. Suspicions had it that Chae was forced by his superiors to push ahead with the risky rescue operation without proper safety measures.

The Marines’ top investigator in charge of the case has been indicted on charges of insubordination and defamation after he handed over the probe results on Chae to the civilian police in defiance of Lee’s orders.

The CIO was widely expected to soon summon Lee for questioning.

Following the announcement of Lee’s appointment, the CIO said it was “weighing various options and measures so that the investigation will not be disrupted.”

The CIO is likely to either seek to question Lee before his departure for the host country or lift the travel ban on condition that he will cooperate with the investigation after he leaves, according to the sources.

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