World Bulletin / News Desk
The searches took place less than a week after an independent probe officially began following a weeks-long investigation by state prosecutors, who named Park as a suspect in an alleged scam to force conglomerates to make donations in return for favors.
That the country’s biggest corporations gave money to nonprofit foundations linked to Park’s detained close confidante Choi Soon-sil is not in doubt -- rather, investigators are seeking to establish if those companies were coerced or received special benefits.
Samsung Group is particularly under scrutiny given that it led the list of donators with more than 20 billion won ($17 million) to the foundations named Mir and K-Sports.
The probe team called in an official from the National Pension Service Monday to examine why the public pension fund backed a contentious merger between Samsung affiliates last year.
Monday’s raids focused on “around 10 places” according to local news agency Yonhap, including the offices of the culture ministry -- which also oversees sports and tourism.
As for Kim Ki-choon, chief aide to Park between 2013 and 2015, he denied even knowing about Choi Soon-sil when appearing at a parliamentary questioning session at the National Assembly earlier this month -- regardless of her apparently close ties to the president.
Kim later admitted that he may have known Choi, who is accused of secretly steering state affairs despite being a private citizen, embezzling funds through Mir and K-Sports and securing preferential treatment as well as Samsung backing for her equestrian athlete daughter.
Meanwhile, Choi refused to be interrogated by lawmakers when they attempted to directly quiz her inside a detention center at 10 a.m. (0100GMT).
Having been questioned by both state and independent prosecutors, she has frustrated National Assembly politicians -- who were also rejected by another pair of detained presidential aides.
Lawyers representing the Assembly are battling against Park in the Constitutional Court, which has a six-month period to decide whether to confirm her parliamentary impeachment while other suspects are being prosecuted elsewhere.