A high-ranking official at the Ministry of Health and Welfare has been arrested for allegedly taking bribes from a large general hospital in exchange for giving favorable information about a state project involving hospitals, police said Tuesday.
The National Police Agency said it has arrested the government official, identified only by the surname Heo, for providing diverse information for Gacheon University Gil Medical Center about the ministry’s 2013 project to select “research-centered hospitals.”
In return, the official received the hospital’s corporate credit cards and spent a total of 350 million won ($325,000). The police sent Heo to prosecutors for indictment.
The police also booked two other people – hospital head surnamed Lee and his chief secretary Kim – on suspicion of bribery and breach of duty and sent them to the prosecution for indictment.
According to the police, Heo in 2013 worked as the director of the ministry’s public healthcare and medical technology division. Heo leaked information to Gil hospital about the government’s plan, budget, and the number of hospitals to select for the project, and received 350 million won.
Gil hospital was selected by the ministry as a research-centered hospital in March 2013 and garnered 5 billion won government support for the project.
At first, Heo enjoyed golfs and entertainment activities paid by Gil hospital. Then, from March 2013, Heo obtained the hospital’s corporate cards, which had a spending limit of 5 million won per month, and used it until December last year.
Heo’s purchases through eight credit cards under Gil hospital’s name mainly occurred at golf clubs, bars, hotels, designer brands, and sports clubs.
To avoid any suspicion, Gil hospital replaced cards for Heo when the purchases were deemed too large.
“Heo admitted that he received and used the cards. However, the official denies charges of bribery, saying he had to spend some money because the hospital asked him to ‘recommend talented people.’ However, we found that Heo asked the hospital first to offer the credit card and the official used it for entertainment,” the police said.
Lee, head of Gil hospital, reportedly said he entertained Heo who was an acquaintance to avoid disadvantages. Lee told the police that he could not refuse Heo’s demand because Heo was in charge of the ministry’s hospital projects.
As Lee admitted his wrongdoings and Heo was the one who demanded bribes first, the police only booked Lee without detention.
Lee is also on charges of allegedly offering lawmakers illegal political contributions with the hospital money.
Lee made illegal donations worth 46 million won to 15 lawmakers affiliated with the National Assembly’s health and welfare committee and Incheon region from 2014 to 2017, under the names of hospital employees and family members, the police said.
“Lee made contributions because he had expected lawmakers to participate in Gil hospital’s 60th-anniversary event this year. However, he said he did not tell lawmakers about the contributions. That is why we booked Lee only and did not charge the lawmakers,” the police said.
<© Korea Biomedical Review, All rights reserved.>