Ousted Leader Park Charged With Bribery


Ousted Leader Park Charged With Bribery

South Korea's ousted President Park Geun Hye was yesterday charged with bribery involving millions of dollars over the corruption scandal that sparked her downfall.

Park, whose impeachment was confirmed by Seoul's top court last month, also faces charges of abusing her powers and leaking state secrets, Seoul prosecutors probing the scandal said in a statement.

"We have formally charged... with multiple offences, including abuse of power, coercion, bribery and leaking state secrets," they said, after wrapping up the months-long investigation.

Park is accused of colluding with her confidante, Choi Soon Sil, who is already on trial, in coercing local conglomerates into donating a total of 77.4 billion won (S$95 million) to two non-profit foundations.

Choi allegedly used some of the donations for personal gain.

Park is also accused of offering policy favours to top businessmen who enriched Choi.

Prosecutors yesterday also charged the chairman of retail giant Lotte Group with bribery. Shin Dong Bin, 62, allegedly offered seven billion won to a sports foundation linked to Choi in exchange for a policy favour from Park over Lotte's duty- free business.

Shin, who was not detained yesterday, is also on a separate graft trial involving family members charged with embezzlement and breach of trust.

Lotte denied allegations that it made improper deals with Park, or those linked to her, for favours, but said it would explain itself in court. "We find the decision on the indictment regrettable," Lotte Group said in a statement.

Lotte, South Korea's fifth-biggest conglomerate, is grappling with the Chinese shutdown of dozens of its stores in China after it agreed to provide land for the US Terminal High Altitude Area Defence system outside Seoul.

Lotte has interests ranging from hotels and retail to food and chemicals. It is the second conglomerate mired in the political scandal after Samsung Group.

Samsung heir Lee Jae Yong is also on trial for bribery. Park is accused of taking bribes worth about 29.8 billion won in exchange for supporting Lee's succession, according to the prosecutors' statement.

Park, 65, has been behind bars at a detention centre since her arrest last month. She has repeatedly apologised for the upset caused by the scandal but never admitted any wrongdoing, blaming Choi for abusing their friendship.

The scandal prompted millions of people to take to the street for weeks, calling for the ousting of the president. Parliament impeached her last December amid growing public pressure and she lost her executive privilege, including protection from criminal indictment.

Park's dismissal on March 10 has left South Korea in the hands of a caretaker government at a time when tensions over North Korea's nuclear programme are mounting.

Leading candidates in the May 9 election to replace her include Mr Moon Jae In, the runner-up to Park in 2012, and centrist Ahn Cheol Soo.

Official campaigning for the election kicked off yesterday.

Source: ST

By Pathay Singh on 04/18/17