Jail term of 20 years demanded for former South Korean president Lee Myung-bak
Disgraced former leader faces charges including bribery and embezzlement – and may have to pay U$23 million in fines and forfeits
Prosecutors on Thursday demanded 20 years in prison for former South Korean president Lee Myung-bak, the most recent of the country’s ex-leaders to be embroiled in a criminal inquiry.
The 76-year-old former Hyundai chief executive turned president – who served from 2008 to 2013 – faces multiple charges including bribery, abuse of power, embezzlement and tax evasion.
Prosecutors in the Seoul court also called for him to pay a total of 26.1 billion won (US$23 million) in fines and forfeits.
The case against Lee means all four former South Korean presidents who are still alive have been charged or convicted for criminal offences.
“The accused undermined the tenets of the constitution by taking advantage of his authority as president for his own private gains,” prosecutors said in a statement read at the court.
“Consequently, he became the country’s fourth president to be arrested for criminal offences, leaving indelible marks on the constitutional history.”
Lee has been accused of accepting a total of some 11 billion won (US$10.2 million) in bribes between late 2007 when he was elected president and 2012, according to prosecutors’ documents.
The case against Lee also includes claims that the Samsung Group bought a presidential pardon in 2009 for its chairman Lee Kun-hee, who had been convicted of tax evasion.
Both Samsung and Lee have denied the allegations.
The money that prosecutors claim Lee took includes 1.7 billion won in secret funds siphoned off from the country’s spy agency and some 3.5 billion won received in return for favours, from people including business figures, a politician and a Buddhist monk.
Separately, prosecutors claim Lee embezzled 35 billion won over 12 years between 1994 and 2006 from DAS, an auto parts company which prosecutors claim Lee owns in his relatives’ names.
Lee has dismissed what prosecutors say are “incriminating” documents and testimony from his relatives and aides as “fabrications”.
The verdict and sentence will be handed down on October 5.
South Korean presidents have a tendency to end up in prison after their time in power – usually once their political rivals have moved into the presidential Blue House.
In August an appeal court extended the sentence for Lee’s successor Park Geun-hye to 25 years in prison for corruption and abuse of power.
Park was ousted last year over a nationwide corruption scandal that prompted massive street protests.
Chun Doo-hwan and Roh Tae-woo, former army generals who served as president through the 1980s to early 1990s, served jail terms for corruption and treason after leaving office.
But both Chun and Roh received presidential pardons after serving about two years.
Another former leader, Roh Moo-hyun, committed suicide in July after becoming embroiled in a corruption probe.