Former South Korean President Lee Myung-bak faces bribery allegations

By Jennie Oh
Former South Korean President Lee Myung-bak faces bribery allegations
Former South Korean President Lee Myung-bak (C) arrives to the Seoul Central District Prosecution Office for questioning in Seoul, South Korea, 14 March 2018. Former South Korean President Lee Myung-bak was summoned by a prosecutor for questioning over accusations of bribery and embezzlement. Photo by EPA-EFE/Jeon Heon-kyun.

SEOUL, March 13 (UPI) -- Former South Korean President Lee Myung-bak faces prosecutors Wednesday for an intensive questioning session over various allegations of bribery and irregularities during his years in office.

Lee arrived at Seoul District Prosecutors' Office around 9:30 a.m., the Hankyoreh reported.


Prosecutors have prepared about 120 pages of questions for the former president, as they strongly suspect he is the main culprit behind a web of bribery and embezzlement charges involving his former presidential secretaries, state officials and family members.

Investigators believe Lee ordered the National Intelligence Agency to funnel $1.6 million to his office through his presidential aides, some of whom have already been arrested.

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Former NIS officials have testified the agency's funds were delivered under orders from the top office.

The former conservative leader is also believed to have taken at least $9 million in kickbacks from some of the countries' largest firms, including Woori Finance Holdings and Samsung Electronics, through various family members.

Some $5.5 million from Samsung Electronics allegedly funded retainer fees and lawsuit proceedings for an auto part company called DAS, which Lee has long been suspected of owning and using to hide his assets.

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Prosecutors estimate Lee holds more than 80 percent of the company's shares under borrowed names.


The firm is also under investigation for creating a secret slush fund of at least $9 million, which Lee is believed to have controlled.

The 76-year-old is largely expected to claim the company belongs to his eldest brother Lee Sang-eun and claim innocence on other charges.

The former president and his legal team have been preparing for the interrogation which is likely to run into the night as he faces some 20 charges, Chosun Ilbo reported.

He has claimed investigations over him and his acquaintances are an act of political revenge by the liberal Moon Jae-in administration.

Before he entered the prosecutors' office, Lee announced to reporters that he is in a "position of terrible discomfort today."

"I am sorry for adding a cause of anxiety for the people, when the economy is struggling and the atmosphere surrounding the Korean Peninsula is severe," he said.

"As a former president, there are many things I want to say but I have decided to spare my words."

The investigation comes five years after Lee left office, making him the fifth former president to be interrogated by prosecutors.

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