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(2nd LD) Ex-President Park Geun-hye indicted in corruption probe

All News 18:17 April 17, 2017

(ATTN: CLARIFIES in paras 4-5)

SEOUL, April 17 (Yonhap) -- South Korean prosecutors indicted jailed former President Park Geun-hye Monday as they wrapped up a six-month probe into the corruption and influence-peddling scandal that brought her down last month.

Park has been charged with bribery, abuse of power, coercion and leaking government secrets in the affair which also involved her long-time friend Choi Soon-sil and former key aides.

Park became the country's third former president to stand trial over corruption allegations, after Chun Doo-hwan and Roh Tae-woo.

When she was arrested on March 31, she faced charges of coercion and abuse of power for her alleged collusion with Choi in forcing local conglomerates to donate a total of 77.4 billion won (US$68 million) to two nonprofit foundations -- Mir and K-Sports -- controlled by Choi.

The former leader was also accused of bribery for allegedly pressuring Samsung to make huge contributions to the foundations and other firms connected to Choi. Samsung Group's de facto leader Lee Jae-yong was arrested for bribing Choi and in effect Park in return for helping him secure group control through a merger of two key units.

In its indictment of Park on Monday, the prosecution added new charges of soliciting bribes from Lotte and SK groups.

Lotte Chairman Shin Dong-bin was also put on trial on charges of giving 7 billion won to the K-Sports Foundation.

But SK Group avoided prosecution as it did not give 8.9 billion won in donations sought by the former president.

Prosecutors suspect that Park promised favors in relation to the two conglomerates' bids for duty-free shops and other business projects. The retail giant Lotte was selected by the Korea Customs Service (KCS) to operate the lucrative shop in Seoul, together with Hyundai and Shinsegae, in December.

The former president reportedly denied all the charges during her five rounds of questioning in jail.

Woo Byung-woo, senior presidential secretary for civil affairs from 2015 to 2016, was also indicted without detention for allegedly abusing authority and neglecting his duty in preventing Choi from meddling in state affairs.

Park is also accused of creating a blacklist of cultural figures deemed critical of the government to deny them state support, and abusing her power to force local firms to sign business contracts with Choi's companies.

The massive corruption scandal gained the full spotlight in October after a local media outlet revealed a tablet PC allegedly used by Choi. The device contained a series of documents related to state affairs, some of which the prosecution concluded were government secrets.

Former President Park Geun-hye arrives at a detention center in Uiwang, south of Seoul, in a car on March 31, 2017, after a court issued a warrant to arrest her in connection with a corruption scandal that led to her removal from office. (Yonhap)

scaaet@yna.co.kr
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