Prosecutors expected to demand heavy punishment for ex-President Lee

September 5, 2018

SEOUL, Sept. 6 (Yonhap) — Prosecutors are expected to request a heavy sentence for former President Lee Myung-bak on a string of corruption charges in a trial on Thursday.

The Seoul Central District Court will hold the last hearing in the case starting at 2 p.m.

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

Lee, 76, is the fourth former president to face a criminal trial after ex-Presidents Chun Doo-hwan, Roh Tae-woo and Park Geun-hye. Park is serving a 25-year jail term for corruption, pending a top court decision.

The former Seoul mayor is accused of taking about 11.1 billion won (US$9.94 million) in bribes from the state intelligence agency and a former head of a state-run banking firm.

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Part of the bribes also includes $5.85 million in lawsuit expenses Samsung Electronics Co. allegedly paid on behalf of an auto parts company Lee is suspected of owning.

Lee’s charges center on long-held suspicions, which dogged him throughout most of his political career, that he is the real owner of DAS and used his presidential powers to benefit the company as well as himself and his family.

Prosecutors suspect he embezzled about 35 billion won from DAS and used it for personal purposes. They charged him for illegally shipping over 3,400 presidential documents out of the presidential office and stashing them at a private building.

The scandal tainted his 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 years, before he entered politics in 1992.

Lee has insisted this trial is political retaliation by the office of President Moon Jae-in over the death of late President Roh Moo-hyun, Lee’s predecessor. Roh committed suicide in 2009 while under a prosecution investigation into a slew of corruption allegations.

Lee’s associates have claimed that Moon, a key Roh ally who served as Roh’s chief of staff, is trying to force the same humiliation back on Lee.

The charges against Lee are punishable by up to life imprisonment. Given his previous status as president, and the fact that he has pleaded not guilty and even refused to testify in court, prosecutors are likely to demand at least 20 years, legal experts have predicted.

Lee’s sentencing trial is expected to be held early next month.

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