Another ex-leader in S. Korea faces graft charges

Lee Myung Bak has been charged with bribery, power abuse, embezzlement and tax evasion.
Lee Myung Bak has been charged with bribery, power abuse, embezzlement and tax evasion.

SEOUL • Former South Korean president Lee Myung Bak has been indicted for corruption, becoming the latest of the country's former leaders to face criminal charges.

The CEO-turned-president who served from 2008 to 2013 has been charged with bribery, power abuse, embezzlement and tax evasion, state prosecutors said in a statement yesterday.

The indictment comes just days after Lee's successor as president, Park Geun Hye, was jailed for 24 years for corruption.

"We will thoroughly retrieve the criminal proceeds that were accumulated by Lee through illegal means," prosecutor Han Dong Hoon told reporters.

Lee was detained late last month but has since refused to be interrogated by prosecutors. He has denied any wrongdoing and denounced the investigation as "political revenge".

If convicted of all the allegations, the septuagenarian Lee could be jailed for life, Yonhap news agency reported. His trial is expected to begin next month, according to Yonhap.

South Korean presidents have a tendency to end up in prison after their time in power - usually once their political rivals have moved into the presidential Blue House.

All four former South Korean presidents who are still alive have now been charged or convicted over criminal offences.

 

Conservative Lee's successor Park was sentenced to 24 years in prison and fined millions of dollars last week for bribery and abuse of power.

She was ousted last year over a nationwide corruption scandal that prompted massive street protests.

Mr Chun Doo Hwan and Mr Roh Tae Woo, former army generals who were presidents through the 1980s to early 1990s, served jail terms for corruption and treason after leaving office.

Both Chun and Roh received presidential pardons after serving about two years.

Lee has been accused of accepting a total of 11 billion won (S$13.4 million) in bribes between late 2007 - when he was elected president - and 2012, according to prosecutors' documents.

These allegations include claims that the Samsung Group bought a presidential pardon in 2009 for its chairman Lee Kun Hee, who had been convicted of tax evasion.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 10, 2018, with the headline 'Another ex-leader in S. Korea faces graft charges'. Print Edition | Subscribe