| A higher court on Thursday upheld a lower court ruling and acquitted a former Seoul police chief of charges that he impeded a police investigation into a high-profile scandal centering around allegations that the nation`s intelligence agency meddled in the 2012 presidential election by swaying public opinion in favor of President Park Geun-hye.
The Seoul High Court delivered a not-guilty verdict to Kim Yong-pan, the former chief of the Seoul Metropolitan Police Agency (SMPA), who was indicted on charges of abusing his authority to cover up the case by deliberately hiding key evidence alleging that the National Intelligence Service (NIS) intervened in the presidential election. He was further charged with violating the election law by allegedly ordering his subordinates to downscale the scandal and announcing a downsized outcome of the investigation into the scandal
Citing a lack of evidence and questioned the credibility of a key witness testimony against him, the court ruled that Kim`s acts were not in violation of the election law, saying that he did not seem to have the purpose of helping a particular candidate win the election.
Although the court acknowledged that the police announcement of the interim result of the investigation was in favor of Park, "acts affecting the election result" should be differentiated from "election campaigning."
Regarding a key testimony by Kwon Eun-hee, a lead investigator on the case at the time who claimed that she could not fully look into the case due to pressure from her superiors including Kim, the court decided that may parts of her testimony did not match accounts by her colleagues. Even if Kwon`s testimony is all true, it has little to do with the case because the testimony was mostly about the announcement of the interim probe result and circumstances before digital forensics.
In a related case, a Seoul court on Thursday convicted a senior SMPA officer of charges that he destroyed key evidence in the scandal. The Seoul Central District Court sentenced the officer, identified only by his surname Park, to nine months in prison for destroying dozens of electronic documents stored on a computer at the SMPA headquarters that could have been used against Kim.