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JoongAng gets indie counsel charges on Choi

Mar 06,2017
President Park Geun-hye was identified as an operator of the controversial nonprofit foundations her confidante Choi Soon-sil used to allegedly strongarm money from conglomerates, according to the indictment of Choi.

The JoongAng Ilbo obtained Sunday the charges that Independent Counsel Park Young-soo used to prosecute Choi after his team’s special investigation into the abuse of power and influence-peddling scandal involving Park, her associates and conglomerates. After a 90-day special probe, the independent counsel indicted 30 people, including Choi and Samsung Vice Chairman Lee Jae-yong, on various charges including bribery.

Park, whose impeachment trial is still ongoing in the Constitutional Court, was not prosecuted because of presidential immunity. Independent Counsel Park is scheduled to announce the outcome of the probe today.

According to its indictment of Choi, the independent counsel said the Mi-R and K-Sports foundations were “jointly operated by Choi and the president.” Contributions of 77.4 billion won ($66.9 million) were made to the two foundations by 53 conglomerates including Samsung Group.

The independent counsel said in the indictment that Choi controlled the Mi-R Foundation through directors on the board, whom she herself picked. She decided the foundation’s direction and projects, it said.

The independent counsel also said Choi promoted overseas projects on Korean cuisine and culture and asked Park to support them. Park ordered Blue House aide An Chong-bum to allow the Mi-R Foundation to participate in the state-run projects.

Choi also proposed to Park establishing the K-Sports Foundation, and Park ordered An on Jan. 30, 2016, to set up exclusive meetings with the chairmen of nine conglomerates.

Park had exclusive meetings with the nine chairmen in February and March 2016, Choi’s indictment said. During the process, Park demanded Chairman Chey Tae-won of SK Group donate 8 billion won to the K-Sports Foundation’s overseas training program. She also demanded Lotte Chairman Shin Dong-bin donate 7 billion won for a sports facility that the foundation planned to build.

Choi’s lawyer, Lee Kyung-jae, said Friday that there was no evidence to prove the suspected collusion. “Boards of directors decided the operations of the two foundations,” he said.

Park has also denied the charge in a statement to the Constitutional Court submitted on Feb. 27 this year.

The independent counsel also concluded that Choi had paid for Park’s residence in Samseong-dong, southern Seoul, as well as her clothes. When Park moved to the house in 1990, Choi and her mother signed the contract and paid for it.

Choi also managed the house, Park’s residence inside the Blue House and other safehouses after she took office in 2013, the independent counsel said. Choi also managed Park’s wardrobe since 1998 and paid for it, including the clothes she wore since her inauguration.

BY HYUN IL-HOON, SONG SEUNG-HWAN [ser.myoja@joongang.co.kr ]