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Court reviews warrant request sans Lee

Decision to detain former president expected to take hours
Mar 23,2018
The Seoul Central District Court on Thursday decided to review an application for former President Lee Myung-bak’s detention without holding a hearing.

A hearing was originally scheduled for Thursday, but Lee refused to attend and denied the charges against him. Prosecutors questioned the former president, who was in office from 2008 to 2013, on March 14 over suspicions that he had taken bribes from businessmen and politicians, misappropriated money from the National Intelligence Service and created slush funds.

They submitted an application for his detention on Monday, arguing that there was a high possibility of evidence destruction because Lee might try to persuade witnesses to change their testimony.

Judge Park Beom-seok, who is in charge of the warrant application, decided not to hold a hearing with Lee’s absence, according to the court. Park said he would consider the case based on documents from the prosecution and Lee’s lawyers.

The court began reviewing the application on Thursday, and the decision was expected to take many hours since both sides submitted over a thousand pages of documents.

The warrant application alone is 207 pages and details Lee’s charges along with the prosecution’s justification for his detention. Prosecutors have sent an additional 1,000 pages of opinions to Judge Park that will not be shared with Lee’s lawyers.

The defense team has reportedly prepared a 100-page rebuttal to the charges. The statement is expected to include another few hundred pages detailing the legal grounds. They have also submitted printouts of slides they had prepared for the hearing.

Lee faces at least 18 charges of corruption and abuse of power. The prosecution’s warrant application lists precise figures for the amount of bribes that Lee allegedly accepted and money that he embezzled. “We wanted to make sure accurate numbers are used before a possible indictment and trial,” a source from the prosecution told the JoongAng Ilbo.

According to the warrant application, Lee accepted over 11.18 billion won ($10.43 million) in bribes. Some of the amount was quoted in U.S. dollars since they involved payments to an American law firm. Prosecutors decided to use the exchange rate at the time of the transaction to determine the won amount in the warrant application.

Prosecutors believe Lee received over 6.77 million won from Samsung Electronics in the form of legal fees for a company that he allegedly owned. DAS, an auto parts maker technically owned by Lee’s brother but in actuality may have been run by Lee himself, was involved in a lawsuit in the United States to retrieve an investment in a failed venture.

Samsung allegedly paid a firm $125,000 a month from November 2007 to November 2011 to represent DAS. A majority of those payments were made while Lee was president, allegedly in return for a pardon of the Samsung chairman who was convicted of tax evasion.

At DAS, prosecutors suspect Lee created a slush fund worth 33.9 billion won, adjusted down from previous media reports of 35 billion won. Together with his wife, Lee is believed to have embezzled an additional 34.8 billion won from the company.

The warrant application said Lee’s wife, Kim Yoon-ok, also took bribes worth 262.3 million won.

Lee awaited the court’s decision from his home in Nonhyeon-dong, southern Seoul, on Thursday. If the warrant is approved, prosecutors will move him to a detention center.

In the application, prosecutors said they wanted to detain Lee either at the Seoul Detention Center in Gyeonggi or the Seoul Dongbu Detention Center in Munjeong-dong, southern Seoul.

Yonhap News Agency reported Thursday that Lee would likely be detained at the Dongbu center if the court issues a warrant because former President Park Geun-hye, currently on trial for bribery and abuse of power, is being held at the Seoul Detention Center.

There is also the fear of possible collusion since other suspects in the Lee scandal are being held at the Seoul Detention Center.

BY SER MYO-JA [ser.myoja@joongang.co.kr]