Former S. Korean President’s friend jailed for 20 years

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Seoul, Feb 13 (IANS) A Seoul court sentenced Choi Soon-sil, a close friend of former President Park Geun-hye, to 20 years in prison on Tuesday for a string of corruption charges linked to a massive influence-peddling scandal that led to Park’s impeachment.

The Seoul Central District Court sentenced Choi on charges of bribery, abuse of power and coercion. It ordered her to pay a fine of 18 billion won ($16.6 million), Yonhap news agency reported.

Choi, 62, was arrested and indicted on 18 counts of corruption in November 2016. She was accused of exploiting her ties with the former President and forcing 50 business conglomerates to pay a combined 77.4 billion won to two non-profit foundations she controlled.

She allegedly meddled in various state affairs and gained access to confidential government files even though she held no official position or authority in the Park government.

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Special Counsel Park Young-soo and state prosecutors demanded 25 years in prison for Choi, with a fine of 118.2 billion won and forfeiture of 7.7 billion won. Choi has denied any wrongdoing.

The court also sentenced Lotte Chairman Shin Dong-bin to two-and-a-half years in jail for bribery. He was accused of donating seven billion won to Choi’s foundations in return for favour regarding Lotte’s duty-free business.

Shin was immediately taken into custody following the court ruling and ordered to forfeit the same amount he offered to Choi.

An Chong-bum, Park’s senior presidential secretary for policy coordination, was given a six-year jail term and ordered to pay 100 million won in fine for accepting bribes and involvement in Choi’s influence-peddling.

The massive scandal involving Choi and Park triggered weeks of street protests calling for Park to step down. Park’s presidency ended a year short following the Constitutional Court’s March 10 ruling on her ousting. The disgraced ex-leader has been charged as a co-conspirator in Choi’s case, pending a court verdict in late March.

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–IANS

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