Lee Myung-bak has been sentenced to 15 years in prison for corruption. (Kim Hong-Ji/Pool Photo via AP, File)
A Seoul court has jailed former South Korean president Lee Myung-bak for 15 years, making him the latest in a string of high-profile political and business leaders ensnared by corruption charges.
- Lee was accused of receiving $14 million in illegal funds
- The trial was politically motivated “revenge”, Lee claimed
- Lee is the fourth former South Korean president to be jailed for corruption
Lee was convicted of bribery, embezzlement and other charges. He has one week to appeal.
Lee, in office from 2008 to 2013, is the fourth former South Korean president to be jailed, with his successor Park Geun-hye imprisoned for her role in a separate corruption scandal that toppled her from power in early 2017.
Lee faced charges that he accepted about $US10 million ($14.1 million) in illegal funds from institutions like Samsung and his own intelligence service, fuelling ongoing concerns over the cosy ties between government and business leaders.
Park Geun-hye refused to testify in the impeachment trial. (Wikimedia Commons: Korean Culture and Information Service)
The Seoul Central District Court found Lee guilty of embezzling about $30.8 million from a private auto parts maker headed by his brother, and accepting bribes from Samsung and others, fining Lee $16 million in addition to the jail sentence.
“Such actions from the president, the head of state and the leader of the executive branch, can be severely condemned,” Judge Chung Kye-sun said.
“It does not stop at violating the fairness and integrity of the presidential office but undermines trust in the entire public office.”
Lee, 76, has denied any wrongdoing, saying the investigation that led to the trial was politically motivated “revenge” by current President Moon Jae-in.
Mr Moon came to office vowing to clean house after the Park scandal, and has previously criticised Lee over an investigation into another former president, Roh Moo-hyun.
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Mr Moon served as Mr Roh’s chief of staff, and the two liberal leaders had a close relationship before Mr Roh took his own life in 2009 after being questioned on corruption allegations during Lee’s presidency.
Lee was not in attendance at the verdict, which was televised live.
Prosecutors had sought a 20-year sentence for Lee.