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(LEAD) Ex-finance minister gets 5 years in prison for bribery

All Headlines 13:22 June 29, 2018

(ATTN: ADDS details; CHANGES photo)

SEOUL, June 29 (Yonhap) -- A Seoul court sentenced former Finance Minister Choi Kyung-hwan to five years in prison on Friday for taking bribes from the spy agency while in office.

The Seoul Central District Court also ordered Choi, who is currently a lawmaker of the main opposition Liberty Korea Party and is close to ousted President Park Geun-hye, to forfeit 100 million won (US$89,200) and pay 150 million won in fines.

Choi was arrested in January for accepting 100 million won from the National Intelligence Service (NIS) in October 2014. Prosecutors demanded an eight-year jail term for Choi, who was deputy prime minister for economic affairs and finance minister at the time.

Prosecutors argued that the bribes were paid in exchange for Choi using his influence to prevent the off-book NIS funds from being cut when then liberal opposition parties sought to reduce the amount on grounds that the use of such funds could not be traced.

He was also accused of asking the NIS to increase the amount of funds the agency illegally provided to the presidential office Cheong Wa Dae the same year, when Park was in office.

Choi has denied having accepted the money. But the court dismissed his argument, saying testimonies of former NIS chiefs that gave the money to Choi are detailed and convincing.

The court nevertheless considered the fact that Choi did not request the money first. Also, there is little evidence that Choi exerted inappropriate influence regarding the NIS funds, the court found.

The photo filed on June 29, 2018, shows former Finance Minister Choi Kyung-hwan charged with bribery entering the courtroom in southern Seoul to attend his sentencing trial . (Yonhap)

elly@yna.co.kr
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