South Korean prosecutors seek 20-year jail term for ex-president Lee Myung-bak

Former South Korean president Lee Myung-bak arrives at a court in Seoul to attend his trial on Sept 6, 2018.
Former South Korean president Lee Myung-bak arrives at a court in Seoul to attend his trial on Sept 6, 2018.PHOTO: AFP

SEOUL (THE KOREA HERALD/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - South Korean prosecutors on Thursday (Sept 6) demanded 20 years in jail for former president Lee Myung-bak over a series of corruption charges including bribery and embezzlement.

Along with the jail term, the prosecutors also sought a 15 billion won (S$18.4 million) fine and forfeiture of 11.1 billion won, in the last hearing which began at the Seoul Central District Court at 2pm.

"Heavy punishment is inevitable, as the magnitude of the corruption case appears to be unprecedented," the prosecutors said. "Lee damaged the values of the Constitution, as he privatised authority that was given to him by the people, who elected him president, for his own gains."

The prosecutors also said Lee left "an ineffaceable stain" in the history of the Constitution by abusing his power to violate the most important values, such as the order of the democratic market economy, protected by the basic law.

Lee, who served as president from 2008 to 2013, was indicted in April over 16 charges. He is accused of receiving about 11.1 billion won in bribes from the state spy agency, individuals and businesses.

The prosecutors also believe the bribery includes US$5 million (S$6.88 million) in litigation fees that Samsung Electronics allegedly paid on behalf of the auto parts manufacturer DAS between 2007 and 2009 as a kickback to the former president.

Lee is also suspected of using DAS to amass slush funds totaling some 33.9 billion won from 1994 to 2006. The prosecution has concluded that Lee is the real owner of the controversial auto parts maker DAS, which on paper, belongs to Lee Sang-eun, the former president's brother.

 
 
 

"Lee knew who the real owner of DAS is, better than anyone, but deceived the entire country, saying (the suspicions) were all 'downright lies,'" the prosecutors said at Thursday's hearing.

Other charges include abuse of power, illegally stashing presidential documents and a violation of the election law.

Lee, however, has denied most of the charges, claiming his case is being handled unfairly.

The court is expected to reach a verdict before Lee's detention period expires on Oct 8.

The conservative former president is the fourth former president to be arrested and put on trial for corruption. Since his arrest in late March, Lee has been under pre-sentencing detention at the Seoul Eastern Detention Centre.

He was recently treated for a number of chronic illnesses, including sleep apnea and diabetes, at Seoul National University Hospital for five days before returning to the detention centre last Friday.