Village headman trespasses on municipal land… followed by senior ‘landowner’ official

A city government official who colluded with the village head to build an access road by damaging municipal property in order to raise land prices was caught by prosecutors. The official denied the crime, blaming the village chief, but prosecutors eventually caught up with him.

According to legal sources on Thursday, the Daegu District Public Prosecutors’ Office’s Andong branch (branch chief Hong Seung-pyo) summarily indicted Ahn Mo, 59, the head of the economy and industry bureau of Yeongju City Hall in North Gyeongsangbuk-do, and Park Mo, 62, the village chief, on 31 March for violating the Mountain Land Management Act. Ahn is accused of conspiring with Park to destroy 152 square metres of forestland belonging to Yeongju City in May last year without permission from the authorities to create a farm road leading to their land.

Initially, the Yeongju Special Forestry Police (안전놀이터Special Judicial Police) investigated the offence, but concluded that Park acted alone. They confirmed that the landowner who benefited was Ahn, but only called him in as a witness once. “It was all the director’s decision,” Ahn reportedly said at the time. Ahn is a fourth-level government official and the direct supervisor of a special police officer in charge of monitoring unauthorised damage to mountainous areas. Park also backed up Ahn’s statement by claiming that he acted alone, but criticism was raised within and outside of Yeongju City Hall that “the special police officer was ‘covering his tracks’ under the watchful eye of his immediate superior.”

Ahn’s involvement came to light last December when prosecutors who took over the case seized Park’s mobile phone. Ahn sent Park a message last year when the farm road was under construction, saying, “I sent the money. I sent money for the forklift,” and other evidence of their collusion was found in the phone’s forensic data. It was also confirmed that the payment of 600,000 won actually went through. Park also forwarded a message to Ahn that he had been sent to the prosecution.

Through the location of the base station, the prosecution also confirmed that Ahn visited the construction site before work on 18-20 May last year, when the farm road was under construction, and met Park. When the prosecution presented evidence, Park confessed to the prosecution that Ahn’s boss “had been a long-time acquaintance.”

Ahn couldn’t hold out much longer after Park’s confession. He admitted that he had tried to get the neighbouring landowners to agree to build a farm road in the hope of raising land prices, but when that failed, he decided to use his position to build a road on the city-owned land. The prosecution did not file any additional charges against Park, as it believes that no money was handed over to him.

A prosecution official said, “We decided that it was a case of corruption by a local high-ranking official and needed to be strict,” but added, “We requested a summary judgement instead of a full trial, considering that Mr Ahn had restored all the damaged municipal land.”


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