S Korea prosecutors raid ministry

2012-01-30 17:29

Seoul - South Korean state prosecutors on Monday raided the foreign ministry as part of a probe into allegations that a senior diplomat was involved in share-rigging linked to a diamond mine in Cameroon.

Prosecutors seized computer hard disks and documents at the offices of Kim Eun-Seok, former ambassador in charge of energy and resources development, and at the offices of public relations officials.

Kim was dismissed from his post last week after the Board of Audit and Inspection (BAI) called for a criminal probe into the scandal. He remains on the foreign ministry staff pending a disciplinary committee hearing.

BAI said Kim played a key role in issuing a ministry statement in December 2010 that Cameroon had authorised Seoul-based CNK International to develop a large diamond mine in the African country.

The ministry had said the volume of diamonds in the mine near the southeastern town of Yakadouma was estimated at 420 million carats, a whopping 2.5 times the global diamond production in 2007.

Other suspects

The statement sent shares of the miner rising dramatically.

BAI said Kim was found to have encouraged his brothers and associates to buy CNK shares before the statement was issued, although he knew the potential value of the mine was exaggerated.

Kim in media interviews has proclaimed his innocence of any wrongdoing.

But auditors said Kim and his family members were suspected to have raked in millions of dollars in profits from the steep rise in CNK's share price.

A former vice foreign minister and a former vice economic minister are also suspected to have played a role in the scandal and to have pocketed massive profits, Yonhap news agency said.