S. Korean prosecutors request extended investigation into presidential scandal
SEOUL, Feb. 16 (Xinhua) -- South Korean prosecutors on Thursday made an official request for an extended probe into the scandal embroiling President Park Geun-hye that led to her impeachment.
Lee Kyu-chul, spokesman of special prosecutors independently investigating the scandal, told a press briefing that the request was submitted earlier in the day to Prime Minister Hwang Kyo-ahn who is serving as acting president.
Calls for the extension are allowed on the date, three days before its original investigation termination scheduled for Feb. 28, but the advance request also has legal grounds, the spokesman said.
The spokesman said the request letter does not specify the final date of Hwang's decision.
The special prosecutors, which launched their investigation on Dec. 21 last year, are allowed to probe the case for up to 70 days. If they require further investigations, the acting president may allow it for up to 30 days under the special law that was passed in the parliament.
Expectations are running high for the prime minister to reject the request, leading opposition lawmakers to draft a revised law that allows the prosecutors to conduct investigations for additional 50 days. Hwang is one of closest aides to the impeached leader.
Lawmakers of the biggest opposition Minjoo Party have submitted the amended law to the parliamentary judiciary committee, which may come into force through votes in the plenary session slated for Feb. 23.
The special probe has been centered on bribery between Samsung Group and President Park's longtime confidant Choi Soon-sil, who is at the center of the corruption scandal.
The investigation met with an obstacle after a Seoul court rejected an arrest warrant for Samsung Electronics Vice Chairman Lee Jae-yong three weeks earlier.
The prosecutors conducted additional probe, making their second bid to arrest him earlier this week. The decision on whether to issue the arrest warrant will be made on Thursday night or early Friday.
Suspects remained about bribery between other business conglomerates and the presidential power in return for business favors or presidential pardons of chaebol heads. Investigations into the cases have yet to be launched.
The spokesman told reporters that special prosecutors could more effectively use the remaining probe period if they can be informed of whether to extend it or not because there are many subjects for the special investigation.