Court to rule Tuesday on Park's friend in influence-peddling scandal

16 February, 2018, 04:17 | Author: Darrell Baldwin
  • Choi Soon-sil heads to take a bus to a detention centre after being sentenced to 20 years in jail. Yonhap via Reuters

The ruling came 450 days after she was indicted in 2016.

Lotte Group Chairman Shin Dong-bin got a jail term of two and a half years for bribery, forfeiting 7 billion won (6.5 million USA dollars). The chairman present in court, was taken into custody.

The then senior economic secretary to Park was given six years in prison yesterday for blackmailing conglomerates into making contributions to two foundations run by Choi.

Prosecutors had demanded a 25-year sentence for Choi. However, last week's ruling said Lee's bribe-giving was a "passive compliance to political power", appearing to put the weight of the blame on Park and Choi.

Kim, the judge, said Park "abandoned constitutionally-given responsibility and gave position and power to others" and that Choi used her position "to monopolize state business and seek personal gain". "Severe punishment is unavoidable".

The de-facto head of technology giant Samsung Electronics Co. was jailed past year in a related trial but he was unexpectedly released last week on appeal, in a ruling that was perceived as a setback to government pledges to curtail the power of the nation's corporate elite. He was sentenced to 6 years in prison, a little longer than was expected, with a fine of 92 thousand dollars.

Among her crimes was pressuring major companies to donate large sums to foundations under her control and receiving bribes from Samsung and Lotte.

The corruption scandal has sent many of Park's aides, high-profile government officials and business tycoons to trial and jail.

Choi is the confidante of Park, who was dismissed from the presidency past year after being impeached over a corruption scandal that paralysed her administration and triggered massive street protests.

Amid the bribery claims, thousands protested calling for Park to step down.

Choi received a three-year prison term in a separate court case related to her influence-peddling in university admissions.

In the Lotte case, the court said Chairman Shin Dong-bin offered 7 billion won ($6.5 million) in payments to Choi's foundations to curry favors such as winning a state license to open a duty-free shop and to strengthen his control over the group.

Shin's arrest creates a leadership vacuum at Lotte, a retail-to-chemicals giant with 110.8 trillion won ($102 billion) worth of assets, as it navigates mounting losses at its China operations.

"Choi's actions shook the order of society, causing great confusion which led to the unprecedented impeachment of a president", a judge said at the Seoul Central District Court. She denies any wrongdoing.



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