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Former President Lee indicted on 16 counts

Apr 10,2018
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Lee Myung-bak
Prosecutors indicted former President Lee Myung-bak on charges of accepting bribes worth about 11.1 billion won ($10.3 million), embezzling another 35 billion won and other corruption and abuse of power charges Monday.

Lee, 77, who served as president from 2008 to 2013, was indicted on 16 charges included bribery, tax evasion, abuse of power, breach of trust, and violations of the public fund act and presidential record management act.

He becomes the fourth former president to be arrested and put on trial following predecessors Chun Doo-hwan, Roh Tae-woo and Park Geun-hye, who last Friday was sentenced to 24 years in prison for corruption and abuse of power.

Han Dong-hoon, the third deputy director of the Seoul Central District Prosecutors’ Office, announced Monday afternoon the results of an investigation of Lee conducted over the past three months.

Prosecutors concluded that Lee is the real owner of DAS, an auto parts maker technically owned by his older brother, Lee Sang-eun, that has been suspected of being used to raise slush funds for the former president. It alleges that Lee, through raising slush funds, falsified payment of wages and personal use of corporate credit cards, embezzled some 34.9 billion won from DAS and evaded paying corporate taxes of some 3.1 billion won.

It also said Lee, as president, abused his power and pressured Samsung Group to pay legal fees amounting to some 6.8 billion won to Akin Gump Strauss Hauer and Feld LLP, a U.S. international law firm that was representing DAS in a lawsuit in the United States, in exchange for a special presidential pardon of Samsung Chairman Lee Kun-hee in 2009.

Prosecutors accused Lee of having received some 700 million won in bribes from National Intelligence Service funds through his aides. He was also found to have illegally taken over 3,400 presidential documents from the Blue House, stashing them at a private building, violating the law on management of presidential records.

Lee denied the charges against him and said his indictment goes beyond “political retaliation” by the liberal Moon Jae-in administration against him in a statement on Facebook. He said he “concluded it was an attempt to topple the liberal democratic system.”

He also said in the post online, “The prosecutors’ indictment is the result of a fictional scenario that they drew up, and an investigation to match this.”

Lee went on to refute the various allegations and maintained that “DAS was established 30 years ago by my older brother and to this day is operated by him,” adding that the embezzlement accusation was “absurd.” Prosecutors are expected to widen the probe, which could include members of Lee’s inner circle and corporate figures believed to have offered him bribes. There is a possibility that Lee’s wife, former first lady Kim Yoon-ok, may also be indicted over involvement in the alleged handover of millions of won to Lee from Woori Financial Holdings. Their son, Lee Si-hyung, also involved in embezzlement accusations in relation to DAS, could stand trial.

BY SARAH KIM [kim.sarah@joongang.co.kr]