Court set to deliver ruling on corruption charges faced by ex-President Lee

October 4, 2018

A Seoul court was set Friday to deliver its verdict on former President Lee Myung-bak on a string of corruption charges.

The sentencing hearing is scheduled to begin at 2 p.m. at the Seoul Central District Court and will be televised live. If found guilty, Lee, 76, will become the fourth former South Korean president to be convicted of criminal charges.

Lee, president from 2008-2013, was indicted in April on 16 counts ranging from bribery, abuse of power and embezzlement to other irregularities. He has been under presentencing detention since late March.

Prosecutors demanded a 20-year prison term for Lee, with a 15 billion won (US$13.5 million) fine and forfeiture of 11.1 billion won.

The verdict will hinge on whether the court determines that Lee is the real owner of his brother’s auto parts company, named DAS, and whether he used his presidential powers to benefit the company.

The bribery charges also include a $5.85 million retainer Samsung Electronics Co. allegedly paid on behalf of DAS for a lawsuit in the U.S.

He is also accused of taking about 11.1 billion won in bribes from the state intelligence agency and a former head of a state-run banking firm. Prosecutors suspect he embezzled about 35 billion won from DAS and used it for personal purposes.

Lee has pleaded not guilty, insisting the trial is political retaliation by administration of President Moon Jae-in over the death of late former President Roh Moo-hyun. Roh killed himself in 2009 while under a prosecution investigation into corruption allegations. Moon served as Roh’s chief of staff.

Lee will not be present at Friday’s hearing, his lawyer announced earlier, citing his poor health and other reasons, but mostly because the court decided to allow the live TV coverage.

The scandal has tainted Lee’s long-established image of a self-made man who started off as a salaryman and rose to the top post at one of the country’s leading companies in only 11 year. He entered politics in 1992.

His successor, Park Geun-hye, is serving 25 years behind bars pending a top court decision over a string of corruption charges that led to her ouster last year.

Ex-presidents Chun Doo-hwan and Roh Tae-woo were convicted of corruption and other charges until they were pardoned by former President Kim Young-sam.