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(LEAD) Ex-President Park arrested in corruption probe

All Headlines 03:23 March 31, 2017

(AATN: ADDS more details)

SEOUL, March 31 (Yonhap) -- Former President Park Geun-hye was arrested on Friday in connection with a corruption scandal that led to her removal from office.

The Seoul Central District Court issued a warrant to detain Park on charges of bribery, abuse of authority, coercion and leaking government secrets, after a marathon hearing the previous day.

State prosecutors filed the request on Monday to arrest Park, citing the graveness of the alleged crimes and the possibility of the destruction of evidence.

Park, ousted in a historic ruling on March 10, became the country's third former president to be arrested over criminal allegations, following Roh Tae-woo and Chun Doo-hwan.

Former President Park Geun-hye arrives at the Seoul Central District Court in the capital on March 30, 2017, for a hearing on a warrant to arrest her. The prosecution earlier this week sought the arrest writ for Park, who is implicated in multiple corruption allegations. (Pool photo) (Yonhap)

The decision was made after a nearly nine-hour hearing at the Seoul Central District Court.

Park was accompanied by two of her lawyers during the hearing, with six prosecutors on the other side, a court official said.

The former president declined to comment on any of the questions asked by reporters as she left the courthouse at 7:30 p.m. Park also remained silent when she arrived at the court in the morning.

Police bolstered security near the courthouse, mobilizing some 2,000 officers as Park's supporters and opponents held rallies.

Prosecutors suspect Park colluded with her longtime friend Choi Soon-sil to force dozens of local conglomerates to "donate" a total of 77.4 billion won (US$70 million) to two dubious foundations -- Mir and K-Sports -- allegedly controlled by Choi.

Samsung's de facto leader, Lee Jae-yong, was arrested for giving or promising some 43.4 billion won to Choi, and in effect to Park, as kickbacks in return for business favors. Of the total, 20.4 billion won went to the two foundations.

If convicted of the bribery charges, Park could be sentenced to 10 years or more in prison.

Park is also accused of involvement in blacklisting cultural figures deemed critical of her policies and prohibiting government agencies from providing financial support to them. Her former close aides were arrested for their roles in creating and managing the list of more than 9,000 artists, writers, filmmakers and entertainment figures.

Prosecutors suspect that the former president abused her power by pressuring her aides to sack culture ministry officials who resisted discriminatory measures against those on the blacklist.

She is also accused of unlawfully intervening in the corporate management of conglomerates, including Hyundai Motor, POSCO and KT, by pressuring them into signing contracts with Choi's firms.

During a marathon interrogation session at the prosecution on Tuesday last week, Park reportedly denied all allegations against her.

She vacated the presidential office, Cheong Wa Dae, earlier this month after the Constitutional Court removed her from office in a historic ruling on March 10.


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