Friday, February 15, 2019
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South Korea's ex-President Lee jailed for 15 years

Lee is the latest of a string of high-profile political and business leaders tainted by corruption charges.

Former South Korean President Lee Myung-bak has been jailed for 15 years and fined $11.5m on multiple corruption charges.

A court in the capital, Seoul, handed down the verdict on Friday, making Lee the latest of a string of high-profile political and business leaders tainted by corruption charges.

During the televised trial, the Seoul District Court ruled that the 76-year-old is the de facto owner of his brother's company, DAS, which is at the centre of the corruption investigation.

"Such actions from the president, the head of state and the leader of the executive branch, can be severely condemned as it does not stop at violating the fairness and integrity of the presidential office, but undermines trust in the entire public office," said judge Chung Kye-sun.

"Bringing everything into consideration, heavy punishment for the accused is inevitable."

Lee, president of South Korea from 2008 to 2013, was arrested in March on charges including bribery, embezzlement and abuse of power.

He has denied any wrongdoing and claimed to be the victim of political "revenge".

The former president did not attend Friday's hearing in protest against the court's decision to broadcast the event live, according to Yonhap news agency. AFP news agency reported Lee's absence was due to ill health.

Earlier, prosecutors demanded a 20-year sentence for Lee, who was also found guilty of having accepted a payment of $5.85m from Samsung Electronics for a US lawsuit involving DAS.

The court said Samsung paid Lee the retainer in an attempt to secure clemency for a tax evasion probe against its chairman Lee Kun-hee, and a subsequent presidential pardon for the executive.

All four of South Korea's living former leaders have been convicted, charged or are being investigated for criminal offences.

Lee's successor Park Geun-hye is currently serving a 25-year jail sentence after being removed from office and charged with bribery, coercion and abuse of power, among other offences in 2017. The scandal fed concerns over cozy ties between the government and business.

Following Park's impeachment, incumbent President Moon Jae-in embarked on an anti-corruption crackdown, which has seen several business and political figures implicated. 

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