Korean ex-president jailed for 15 years

Cheryl Sanders
October 7, 2018

In South Korea, a Seoul district court has sentenced former president Lee Myung-bak to 15 years in prison for bribery and embezzlement, among other charges.

He was also fined 13bn won (£8.8m) after Seoul Central district court found him guilty of bribery and embezzlement.

Lee, who has denied most of the allegations, didn't attend the court session, reportedly citing his health and in protest of a court decision to allow a live broadcast of Friday's trial.

All four former South Korean presidents who are still alive have now been convicted for criminal offences. In April 2018, the court sentenced Park Geun-Hye, who led the country in the years 2013-2017, to 24 years in prison on charges of corruption.

The money was used for personal expenses and funding Lee's political campaigns, the court said.

Earlier, prosecutors demanded a 20-year sentence for Lee, who was also found guilty of having accepted a payment of $5.85m from Samsung Electronics for a USA lawsuit involving DAS.

"Such actions from the president, the head of state and the leader of the executive branch, can be severely condemned", Judge Chung Kye-sun said.

Samsung allegedly paid six billion won (USD 5.6 million) in legal fees to a U.S. law firm on Lee's behalf. His lawyer said the live broadcast would hurt South Korea's worldwide image and undermine national unity, according to Yonhap news agency.

The court ruled that he embezzled 2.46 billion won from DAS, an auto parts company at the center of the scandal.

Lee was also found guilty of accepting almost six billion won from Samsung Electronics in return for a presidential pardon for its chairman Lee Kun-hee, who was jailed for tax evasion.

While in office, Lee's government had initiated a corruption investigation into former liberal president Roh Moo-hyun in 2009, after which Roh committed suicide. Moon, who was Roh's friend and chief of staff, responded with fury, calling his accusation a challenge to South Korea's judiciary order. He has consistently denied the charges and said the proceedings were politically motivated.

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