South Korean prosecutors demand 25 years in prison for ex-president Park Geun Hye's friend Choi Soon Sil

Close confidante of South Korea's ousted president Park Geun Hye, Choi Soon Sil, arriving for her trial at the Seoul Central District Court in Seoul on Dec 14, 2017.
Close confidante of South Korea's ousted president Park Geun Hye, Choi Soon Sil, arriving for her trial at the Seoul Central District Court in Seoul on Dec 14, 2017.PHOTO: AFP

SEOUL (AFP, REUTERS) - South Korean prosecutors on Thursday (Dec 14) demanded a 25-year prison sentence for the powerful secret confidante of ousted president Park Geun Hye who was at the centre of the sprawling corruption scandal that brought down the leader.

Park's long-time friend Choi Soon Sil - the daughter of her religious guru - was vilified at the massive nationwide protests last year that rocked Asia's fourth-largest economy and led to Park's impeachment.

Choi was "the alpha and omega of the scandal", a prosecutor told the Seoul Central District Court, adding: "Please sentence Choi to 25 years in prison." He also sought fines and asset seizures totalling 126.2 billion won - around S$156 million.

"Choi took advantage of presidential authorities to seek personal profit, undermined constitutional values and rattled the government system," the prosecutor added.

The 61-year-old is accused of colluding with Park to extort millions of dollars from conglomerates, including South Korean giants Samsung and Hyundai, and using her connection with the president to meddle in state affairs.

Park herself is being tried separately, but Thursday's request suggests prosecutors will demand a sentence of at least 25 years in her case.

Choi denies all 18 charges, including abuse of power, coercion and bribery.

Prosecutors are also seeking a four-year jail term and a fine of seven billion won for the chairman of retail conglomerate Lotte Group, Shin Dong Bin, and six years for a former presidential aide, over the bribery scandal involving Choi.

Shin is accused of paying bribes totalling seven billion won to an organisation linked to Choi in return for government favours in offering a duty-free licence, a Lotte spokesman said on Thursday. Shin has denied charges during trials.

Verdicts are expected in January.

In August, Lee Jay Yong, the head of South Korea's top conglomerate Samsung Group, was sentenced to five years in jail over the bribery scandal.

In a separate corruption probe, South Korean prosecutors in October demanded a 10-year jail term for Shin. He faces a ruling on the corruption charges later this month.