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(2nd LD) Park confirmed as suspect in multiple cases as special prosecution releases probe results

All Headlines 15:44 March 06, 2017

(ATTN: UPDATES with rebuttal from President Park's lawyer in para 12)

SEOUL, March 6 (Yonhap) -- Announcing the results of its 70-day probe, the special prosecution team reaffirmed Monday that President Park Geun-hye is suspected of involvement in bribery, influence-peddling and abuse of power cases implicating her confidante and aides.

Independent Counsel Park Young-soo's team concluded its probe last Tuesday and transferred the results to the state prosecution for further investigation. A total of 30 people, including Samsung Group's de facto leader Lee Jae-yong, were indicted in connection with the scandal.

In its press release, the team confirmed that Park is a suspected accomplice to her longtime friend Choi soon-sil in taking bribes from Samsung's Lee in return for business favors.

It also linked Park to illegal blacklisting by her aides of 9,473 liberal-leaning cultural figures deemed critical of her administration in May 2015.

Independent Counsel Park Young-soo (C) announces his team's investigation outcome to reporters during a press conference held at its office in southern Seoul on March 6, 2017. (Yonhap)

The investigators claimed Park and Choi used phones opened under other people's names to communicate with each other a total of 573 times between April and October last year.

Lee Young-seon, a presidential aide, was indicted on charges of opening the illegal phone accounts for the president and other officials. He is also accused of helping Park receive unauthorized medical treatments from uncertified practitioners.

Kim Young-jae, a doctor close to Choi, gave Botox injections to Park five times between May 2014 and July 2016, without leaving official records. He did not go through due security and safety checks.

Independent Counsel Park said his team has found some 273 billion won (US$236 million) worth of assets belonging to the Choi family, with Choi alone holding some 22.8 billion won, but could not find evidence that it was illegally accumulated.

Still, the probe team has asked a local court to forfeit some 7.7 billion won she illegally earned from Samsung.

"The probe ended accomplishing just half (of what was expected) due to the limited period and uncooperative attitude of those subject to the investigation," Independent Counsel Park told reporters during a press briefing.

The independent counsel's attempt to carry out an interrogation of the president was foiled after the two sides failed to reach an agreement on how to carry out the unprecedented inquiry.

The president's legal representative Yoo Yeong-ha immediately released a statement rebutting all allegations raised against Park and denouncing the independent counsel as being "politically biased."

The key issue now is whether President Park will undergo face-to-face questioning by the prosecution which will continue looking into suspicions that have been unresolved. It is the same team that began the investigation into the scandal last year before handing it over to the independent counsel.

The special counsel team could not carry out a compulsory investigation into Park, as an incumbent president is immune to indictment.

In addition to allegations involving the president, the state prosecutors are expected to dig into influence-peddling suspicions surrounding former senior presidential secretary Woo Byung-woo and other corruptive links between political powers and business giants.

In this file photo taken on Nov. 29, 2016, President Park Geun-hye bows after addressing the nation over a political scandal involving her and her longtime friend Choi Soon-sil at the presidential office in Seoul. (Yonhap)

scaaet@yna.co.kr
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