Crony of jailed ex-president Park receives 20-year jail sentence

Lim Chang-won Reporter Posted : 2018-02-13 17:35 Updated : 2018-02-13 18:57
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[Photo by Yoo Dae-gil =]

SEOUL, Feb. 13 (Aju News) -- ​ In a case that followed an outburst of public anger and massive street demonstrations, the crony of South Kora's jailed ex-president Park Geun-hye received a 20-year jail sentence Tuesday on charges of coercing business leaders to make illegal donations.

A criminal court in Seoul ruled that Choi Soon-silShe was found guilty of causing a state crisis by abusing power and controlling government affairs arbitrarily for her personal interests. She was slapped with a fine of 18 billion won (16.6 million US dollars).

"The defendant, using his long personal relationship with the top leader of our country, forced corporations to provide bribes. Her deep intervention in state affairs put the national order into disarray and led to the unprecedented impeachmen of the president," the court said.

"Severe punishment is inevitable," the court said, accusing Park of abusing her authority to collect money from business leaders who had no other choice but to accep her request.

Choi, 61, was arrested in November 2016 and indicted for meddling in state affairs, siphoning off money from two public foundations created with cash donations from dozens of conglomerates.

She has been at the center of a corruption scandal that sparked massive candle-lit protest and led to the impeachment of Park, who is also on trial on charges of abusing power and conspiring with Choi to extort money from Samsung and other top conglomerates in return for business favors.

Choi was given a three-year prison sentence in June last year in the first case involving her daughter accused of receiving undue favors regarding her school admission and academic affairs.

Shin Dong-bin, the chairman of South Korea's fifth-largest conglomerate, Lotte, was jailed in court after he was sentenced to two years and six months in prison on charges of bribing Choi. He was found guilty of providing seven billion won in return for favors related to the group's duty-free business.

An Chong-bum, one of Park's senior aides, was given a six-year prison sentence and a fine of 100 million won for collaborating with Choi to collect corporate donations.

In Tuesday's trial, the court said that Choi and Park cooperated to accept bribes from Samsung. However, it is difficult to say that Samsung bribed them for explicit or implicit favors" to facilitate the transfer of group leadership from his ailing father, it said.

Last week, Samsung Electronics Vice Chairman Jay Y. Lee was released after an appeals court sentenced him to two years and six months with a stay of execution for four years.

The son of Samsung's bed-ridden group head Lee Kun-hee was arrested in February last year and the lower court sentenced him to five years in prison in August for embezzling company funds to bribe Choi.

The corruption scandal fanned public sentiment against corporate donations, which have long been a controversial issue in South Korea due to concern about collusive ties between businessmen and politicians.

Park is on trial on multiple charges including bribery, abuse of authority, coercion and leaking government secrets. She was accused of abusing her status and power to solicit bribes from top conglomerates, although she claimed businessmen have voluntarily donated money.