Seoul, April 17 (IANS) South Korean prosecutors indicted former President Park Geun-hye on Monday as they wrapped up a six-month probe into the corruption and influence-peddling scandal that brought her down last month.
Park has been charged with bribery, abuse of power, coercion and leaking government secrets in 18 suspected crimes, mostly involving her long-time friend Choi Soon-sil and former key aides.
She was taken into custody on March 31, Yonhap News Agency reported.
Park became the country’s third former President to stand trial over corruption allegations, after Chun Doo-hwan and Roh Tae-woo.
If convicted, she could face a prison term ranging from 10 years to life.
In addition to allegations that Park colluded with her friend Choi Soon-sil in coercing conglomerates to donate 77.4 billion won ($68 million) to two non-profit foundations — Mir and K-Sports, the former leader is also accused of soliciting bribes from Lotte and SK groups.
Lotte Group Chairman Shin Dong-bin was put on trial on charges of giving 7 billion won to the K-Sports Foundation, allegedly controlled by Choi.
SK Group avoided prosecution as it did not give 8.9 billion won in donations sought by the former President.
Prosecutors suspect that Park promised favours in relation to the conglomerates’ bids for duty-free shops and other business projects.
The retail giant Lotte was selected by the Korea Customs Service (KCS) to operate the lucrative shop in Seoul, together with Hyundai and Shinsegae, in December.
Park reportedly denied all the charges during her five rounds of questioning in jail.
Woo Byung-woo, senior presidential secretary for civil affairs from 2015 to 2016, was also indicted for allegedly neglecting his duty in preventing Choi from meddling in state affairs and abusing his authority.
Prosecutors have been accelerating the investigation to conclude it before Monday’s launch of the official campaign for the May 9 presidential election.