During the February 13 Senate probe into the kidnapping-murder case of Korean businessman Jee Ick Joo, Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II told the Senate panel about the presence of the Korean mafia in the Philippines and how this criminal group may have “compromised” some people at the Korean embassy.
Aguirre’s “misleading” claims
“We have this theory that he had an enemy inside the Korean mafia, and they hired the scalawags of our police agencies from the PNP and NBI to in Mr. Jee Ick Joo. (And really) from the looks of it, that’s what happened because you won’t kill someone right away in kidnap-for-ransom cases,” Aguirre said.
“Since I am not an investigator, we should pursue every theory of the case some people say this Jee Ick Joo refused to give money because there was nothing illegal in his business here in the country, which is to recruit Chinese workers,” Aguirre said of the answer Jee’s family gave him after asking them if the victim had fought with another Korean.
Aguirre also asked Jee’s wife whether her husband has rivals since he heard about Korean rivalries while he was serving as the legal counsel of the Clark Development Authority (CDC), which the wife denied.
Then, he claimed that the Korean embassy asked his office to stop investigating the Korean mafia.
“Sabi ko, hindi pa naman tayo tapos sa imbestigasyon, pero nagtataka ako kung bakit pinahihinto ang investigation,” Aguirre said.
Aguirre talked about Kang Tai Shik, who raised his curiosity because he was told a high ranking Duterte admin official that Kang trifled with the Philippine judicial system and the Bureau of Immigration, but has managed to remain in the Philippines “because he is able to pay the people around him, Filipino officials.” This was opposite to what the Korean embassy officials told him – that Kang is a “very reputable businessman and he has no derogatory record in the Korean embassy.”
After his meeting with the Korean embassy officials, Aguirre said he was told about the Korean mafia in the Philippines by a former NBI official and that’s when he threw his accusations at the Korean embassy.
“Even some people at the Korean embassy are compromised by this Korean mafia. And then we heard from Col. (Glenn) Dumlao that the people in this abduction are so big that mahihirapan tayo,” Aguirre said.
Korean Embassy’s official statement
The Korean embassy has immediately reacted to Aguirre’s accusations and denied that they asked the justice secretary to stop investigating the Korean mafia.
The embassy called out Aguirre for making “misleading statements,” adding that his accusations and claim that the embassy tried to stop the probe into the mafia have tarnished the reputation of the Korean diplomats.
In the statement, the embassy conveyed how it “regrets very much that, based on wrong and unfounded information, Secretary Aguirre made some misleading statements involving so-called Korean mafia at the Senate hearing on February 23, 2017.”
The embassy also said that “the Embassy officials did not ask the Secretary to stop any investigations concerning the Korean mafia” and that it is “strongly distressed that this false information could tarnish its honor and reputation.”
The Korean embassy also summarized what occurred during the February 13 meeting between Aguirre and Jee’s widow, who was accompanied by the Korean Consul-General and a police attaché.” The embassy said that the justice secretary wanted to clarify Jee’s alleged connection with the Korean mafia.
The embassy said that its official and Jee’s wife said that Jee “lived an honest life as a conscientious businessman, having no connections at all with any malicious Korean persons.”
Jee’s widow also denied any claims about her husband having been kidnapped twice before. She also reportedly requested the NBI to stop participating in the joint investigation into her husband’s death to avoid further delays.
As for Aguirre’s questions about Kang Tai Shik, the embassy has already told him that “he is a long-established Korean businessman, who has nothing to do with Mr. Jee’s case.”
“Then, Secretary Aguirre promised that the DOJ would not pursue any longer the angle of possible linkage with a Korean mafia in its future investigations into the case,” the Korean embassy said, denying claims that officials have asked Aguirre to stop the probe.
The embassy also emphasized its confidence that “no official has been compromised by Korean mafia” and asked Aguirre for “concrete evidence” to support his claims.
The Korean embassy added that “it would take full responsibility for it, if any.”
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