Park Solicited Bribes from Samsung, Probe Finds

Mar 08, 2017, 00:32

The conclusion paves the way for state prosecutors to investigate Park if she is removed from office by the Constitutional Court which is reviewing her impeachment in December, 2016.

South Korean law does not allow a sitting president to be indicted unless she is accused of treason.

Her removal from office would subject her to a fresh investigation by state prosecutors.

Choi's petition corresponds to President Park's stance, which claims the special counsel was "politically-motivated" in the first place. The Constitutional Court will rule on whether to uphold parliament's December impeachment of Park.

Her lawyers maintain that she was not aware of any wrongdoing and blamed her secret confidante Choi Soon-Sil, who is accused of using her presidential ties to force local firms to "donate" almost US$70 million (S$99 million) to non-profit foundations.

Special prosecutor Park Young-soo said in a statement Monday the bribes President Park Geun-hye and her friend Choi Soon-sill extracted from Samsung chief Lee Jae-yong are a symbol of a "chronic cycle of corruption in our society" and were aimed at insuring that Lee remained at Samsung's helm.

The special prosecutor also said the president was instrumental in blacklisting more than 9,000 artists, authors and movie industry professionals and excluding them from government assistance that constituted an abuse of power.

President Park, Choi and Lee have all denied wrongdoing.

Choi is President Park's long-time confidant.

The special prosecutors' investigation was "unfair and lacking in evidence", her lawyer Yoo Yeong-ha said, and the president decided not to appear for questioning because she decided she "could not trust the investigation team" after the date originally scheduled for her appearance was leaked to the media.

Choi, who is now on trial, has also denied all wrongdoing. Those actions, prosecutors said, were meant to smooth Lee's transition to power atop Samsung, as well as secure the finances to pay an inheritance-tax bill that could total billions of dollars.

The special prosecutors concluded that Lee paid $37 million in bribes to Choi and Park, and embezzled $24 million from Samsung units to pay the bribes.

Based on the main charges levied against Lee, he could face more than 20 years in prison if convicted. "We disagree with the Special Prosecutor's findings", a spokesperson said in a statement.

Samsung has denied it made bribes, saying that future court proceedings "will reveal the truth".