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Court extends former President Lee’s detention

Mar 31,2018
Prosecutors said on Friday that they would hold former President Lee Myung-bak for 10 more days after receiving permission from a local court to extend his detention.

Lee, who served as president from 2008 to 2013, faces several charges of corruption, including bribery, embezzlement and abuse of power. He has been held at the Seoul Dongbu Detention Center since March 22, when the Seoul Central District Court gave prosecutors permission to detain him for questioning.

The warrant was set to expire today, but the court extended it on Thursday, allowing prosecutors to hold the former president until April 10.

“Because the charges are too wide, we need more time,” an official in the prosecution said.

Prosecutors attempted to question Lee on Monday and Wednesday, but he refused to participate.

Through his lawyer, Lee said it was meaningless to submit to questioning because he had no faith in the process.

Lee has already appeared before prosecutors once, on March 14, to answer to allegations against him, but prosecutors said they found inconsistencies between Lee’s testimony and those of other witnesses, requiring them to question Lee further.

Lee’s lawyers on Friday submitted a letter to the court objecting to his continued detention.

“The Criminal Procedure Act allows an extension only when the prosecution needs more time to investigate in order to make a judgment whether to indict a detained suspect or not, or when it failed to question an important witness,” the letter read. “It is unacceptable that the detention is extended when the suspect exercised his right to remain silent.”

His lawyers said the prosecution had enough information to make a decision on Lee’s indictment. “The accused has serious doubt in the fairness of the prosecution’s investigation,” the letter read. “He rather wants to have a trial as soon as possible to start defense arguments on the charges.”

The letter, however, has no effect in overturning the court’s decision to extend his detention.

Lee currently faces at least 18 charges for receiving bribes from businessmen and politicians, misappropriating money from the country’s main spy agency and generating slush funds using a company registered under his brother’s name.

The slush fund, reportedly worth 33.9 billion won ($31.9 million), was created through DAS, an auto parts maker technically owned by Lee’s brother but allegedly run by Lee. Together with his wife, he is believed to have embezzled an additional 34.8 billion won from the company.

On bribery charges, prosecutors believe Lee accepted over 11.18 billion won while he was in office. Of that amount, over 6.77 million won allegedly came from Samsung Electronics to help cover legal fees in a case involving DAS.

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