17-year jail term upheld for former South Korean leader

Lee Myung-bak, who was president from 2008 to 2013, was convicted of bribery and embezzlement offences in 2018.
Lee Myung-bak, who was president from 2008 to 2013, was convicted of bribery and embezzlement offences in 2018.

SEOUL • Former South Korean president Lee Myung-bak was ordered back to prison yesterday as the country's Supreme Court upheld a 17-year jail term for bribery and embezzlement offences.

Lee, a conservative, was president from 2008 to 2013. He had been out on bail awaiting the ruling and was not in court for the decision. The ruling is not subject to further appeal and, at age 78, it means Lee is likely to die in prison unless he receives a presidential pardon.

Police were seen at his Seoul home to take him back to prison, but according to Yonhap news agency, he requested a delay citing health reasons. He will be taken into custody on Monday.

That will mean all four of South Korea's living former presidents are either behind bars or have served jail terms - often as a result of investigations begun under successors who are political rivals.

Lee was first convicted in late 2018 and jailed. An appeals court later increased his sentence to 17 years, but granted him bail pending a further appeal to the nation's highest court.

The Supreme Court yesterday upheld his conviction for embezzling 25.2 billion won (S$30.35 million) and accepting bribes totalling 9.4 billion won, as well as the 17-year sentence. Lee is also subject to a 13 billion won fine and must forfeit assets of 5.7 billion won.

Lee's conservative successor Park Geun-hye is serving 20 years in jail for bribery and abuse of power after being ousted in 2017 over a corruption scandal. Another former leader, the liberal Roh Moo-hyun, took his own life after being questioned in a corruption probe involving his family.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 30, 2020, with the headline '17-year jail term upheld for former S. Korean leader'. Print Edition | Subscribe