Eastar Jet (ESR, Seoul Gimpo) founder Lee Sang-jik has been arrested on charges of embezzlement and breach of trust, after a judge at Jeonju District Court in western South Korea issued the arrest warrant. The businessman and politician will now be detained for up to 20 days and questioned about the alleged misdeeds, local media reported.

Lee Sang-jik is accused of colluding with - allegedly directing - an unnamed former company executive, also a relative of Lee’s, who was arrested in late January on the same charges and was formally charged with the crimes on February 7. Court papers refer to the relative as Mr A.

The pair allegedly paid off long-term loans early and undersold shares in the company to a subsidiary in 2015, causing about KRW43 billion won (USD38.6 million) in financial damage to the cash-strapped budget carrier.

Judge Kim Seung-gon issued the warrant, sought by prosecutors, reasoning that the suspect may try to falsify evidence, Yonhap News Agency reported on April 28. According to the Chosun Ilbo newspaper, the independent politician has been accused of misappropriation or embezzlement of up to KRW55.5 billion (USD50.3 million).

The prosecutors obtained the consent of the National Assembly last week to issue the arrest warrant, as politicians are protected from arrest while the parliament is in session.

Lee is also under investigation for possible violations of the Political Parties Act, as he is suspected of operating an office for party members in his Jeonju constituency in the run-up to elections in April 2020 despite a ban on individuals running party offices.

The prosecution is expected to conduct and then close the investigation and initiate a trial in which Lee would be tried together with Mr A, the Chosun Ilbo reported. Mr A has insisted he was merely carrying out instructions from above.

Separately, Eastar Jet continues with its court-led rehabilitation process, which has been ongoing since early February.