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Ex-president Park's friend gets 20-year prison term in influence-peddling scandal

All Headlines 16:30 February 13, 2018

SEOUL, Feb. 13 (Yonhap) -- A Seoul court sentenced an old friend of former President Park Geun-hye to 20 years in prison on Tuesday for a string of corruption charges linked to a massive influence-peddling scandal that forced Park from office early last year.

The Seoul Central District Court handed down the verdict on Choi Soon-sil, Park's longtime friend and confidante, on the conviction of bribery, abuse of power and coercion. It ordered her to pay a fine of 18 billion won (US$16.6 million).

Choi, 62, was arrested and indicted on 18 counts of corruption in November 2016. She was accused of exploiting her ties with the former president and forcing 50 business conglomerates to pay a combined 77.4 billion won to two nonprofit foundations she controlled.

She allegedly meddled in various state affairs and gained access to confidential government files even though she held no official position or authority in the Park government.

Special Counsel Park Young-soo and state prosecutors have demanded 25 years in prison for Choi, with a fine of 118.2 billion won and forfeiture of 7.7 billion won. Choi has denied any wrongdoing.

The court also sentenced Lotte Chairman Shin Dong-bin to 2 1/2 years in jail for bribery. He was accused of donating 7 billion won to Choi's foundations in return for favor regarding Lotte's duty free business. Shin was immediately taken into custody following the court ruling, and ordered to forfeit the same amount he offered to Choi.

An Chong-bum, Park's senior presidential secretary for policy coordination, was given a six-year jail term and ordered to pay 100 million won in fine for accepting bribes and involvement in Choi's influence-peddling.

The massive scandal involving Choi and Park triggered weeks of street protests calling for Park to step down. Park's presidency ended a year short following the Constitutional Court's March 10 ruling on her ousting. The disgraced ex-leader has been charged as a co-conspirator in Choi's case, pending a court verdict late next month.

This photo filed Dec. 14, 2017, shows Choi Soon-sil, a longtime friend and confidante of ousted President Park Geun-hye, entering the Seoul Central District Court to attend her corruption trial. (Yonhap)

elly@yna.co.kr
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