Former S. Korean president faces arrest

Mr Lee Myung Bak, who denies most of the allegations, is suspected of taking 11 billion won (S$13.5 million) in bribes.
Mr Lee Myung Bak, who denies most of the allegations, is suspected of taking 11 billion won (S$13.5 million) in bribes.

SEOUL • A South Korean court has ordered the arrest of former South Korean president Lee Myung Bak over allegations of bribery.

Mr Lee is the second former leader of Asia's fourth-largest economy facing jail time in just over a year. Park Geun Hye, his successor from the same conservative party, was removed from office last year after she was impeached over a corruption scandal that engulfed the entire country from late 2016.

There are concerns that evidence could be destroyed, given the suspect's position and the gravity of the case, the Seoul Central District Court said in a text message yesterday.

Mr Lee, who was president from 2008 to 2013, is suspected of taking a total of 11 billion won (S$13.5 million) in bribes from entities including the national spy agency, Samsung Group, and the former chairman of Woori Finance Holdings, according to Yonhap News.

Mr Lee denies most of the dozen or so allegations, Yonhap reported. He said prosecutors are carrying out political revenge on behalf of President Moon Jae In's liberal government.

Mr Lee last week said he hopes "this is the last time in history" that a former president is victimised.

Mr Lee gained fame as a self-made man as the nation grew from post-war poverty into an economic powerhouse .

He spent years as a street vendor before entering a prestigious college in Seoul. Later, he joined Hyundai Engineering and Construction, where he rose to become its chief executive officer.

His early years in office were tainted by the global financial crisis and massive street protests over his agreement to allow imports of American beef.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 23, 2018, with the headline 'Former S. Korean president faces arrest'. Print Edition | Subscribe