SEOUL, Feb. 7 (Yonhap) -- Won Sei-hoon, a former National Intelligence Service (NIS) director, was sentenced to seven years in prison on Friday for spending taxpayer money to interfere in domestic politics in favor of preceding conservative governments and paying public money to civilians to write internet comments favorable to conservatives.
The Seoul Central District Court also suspended Won's civil and political qualifications for seven years for inflicting losses to state coffers, in addition to the jail sentence.
Won, who led the NIS from 2009-2013, was indicted from December 2017 to December 2018 on nine criminal charges, including his unlawful use of NIS funds to hire civilians to distort cyberspace opinions and acts of interference in domestic politics.
Separately, Won was convicted on charges of instructing NIS officials to manipulate internet comments to sway public opinion ahead of the 2012 presidential election. In the case, the Supreme Court upheld a four-year imprisonment for him in April 2018.
Won's additional indictments came after the Moon Jae-in administration launched a reinvestigation into the NIS' past wrongdoings following Moon's inauguration in May 2017.
In the previous court hearing held last December, prosecutors demanded an imprisonment of 15 years, a forfeit of 19.83 billion won (US$16.7 million) and suspension of qualifications for 10 years. Won claimed innocence in that hearing, saying he was not involved in the alleged illegal acts and that those acts cannot be punished criminally.
But the Seoul court didn't order a forfeit for Won, saying that it is difficult to confirm he had personally used money embezzled from state coffers.
Prosecutors had reopened the investigation into Won after an internal NIS probe found documents that suggest the spy agency ran 30 cyberteams and spent billions of won in taxpayer money to pay civilians and NIS retirees hired to write disparaging internet comments about liberal figures.
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