South Korean prosecutors indicted ex-Korean president Lee Myung-bak on multiple corruption charges on Monday, making him the country’s fourth former leader to stand a criminal trial.
Lee, 77-year-old businessman-turned-politician who served as the president from 2008 to 2013, has been in pretrial detention for questioning since March 23. He faces total 14 corruption counts ranging from bribery and embezzlement to power abuse and tax evasion. He denies most of them.
Lee is Korea’s fourth ex-president to be arrested and face criminal sentencing after Chun Doo-hwan, Roh Tae-woo, and Park Geun-hye. Park, Lee’s successor from the same conservative party, was sentenced to 24 years in prison and a penalty of 18 billion won ($17 million) in the first ruling on Friday after a Seoul court found her guilty of 16 counts out of 18 charges including power abuse and bribery.
The prosecution launched an investigation into Lee in October last year after Optional Capital’s chief executive pressed charges against Lee over power abuse. Lee is accused of having illegally pocketed about 11 billion won, including some 700 million won from the state intelligence service and $5.85 million in lawsuit expenses Samsung Electronics paid on behalf of DAS, a car parts firm Lee is suspected of owning.
Lee has denied the allegations and claims himself a victim of a “political vendetta” for the prosecution probe on his predecessor Roh Moo-hyun, who had been friend and boss to current liberal President Moon Jae-in. Roh committed suicide during the probe.
Prosecutors maintain they hold evidence connecting Lee to a building owned by Cheonggye Foundation. His former aides have testified about Lee’s alleged corruptions but Lee has accused them of having made false statements.
Prosecutors are looking into other suspicions, which could lead to additional charges against Lee. They are also seeking to freeze Lee’s assets and extend investigation and charges to his wife and son.
By Lee Hyun-jung and Cho Jeehyun
[ⓒ Pulse by Maeil Business News Korea & mk.co.kr, All rights reserved]