(ATTN: UPDATES with details in last two paras)
SEOUL, Feb. 19 (Yonhap) -- An appellate court on Wednesday delivered a heavier prison term of 17 years to former President Lee Myung-bak on bribery and embezzlement charges, bringing him back into custody after he was released on bail.
The prison term is higher than the 15 years of imprisonment that a lower court handed down in October 2018 to Lee who ruled the country from 2008-2013.
He was ordered to pay a fine of 13 billion won (US$10.9 million) and forfeit 5.78 billion won.
The conviction brought Lee back into custody after he was released on bail on health concerns in March 2019.
The 78-year-old Lee was charged with bribery and embezzlement in connection with his brother's auto parts company DAS, becoming the fourth ex-South Korean leader to be criminally convicted.
A lower court found that Lee was the de facto owner of DAS and that he used his presidential power to benefit the firm and himself, including accepting bribes from Samsung Electronics Co. in the form of retaining fees for DAS.
"The defendant ignored the duty and responsibility (that were imposed on the president) and made wrongdoings, such as accepting bribes from public servants or a private company," said the Seoul High Court, the appellate court.
In January, the prosecution demanded the appeals court hand down a 23-year prison term for Lee. Prosecutors condemned Lee for not repenting for his wrongdoings and blaming others to avoid responsibility.
The appellate court found that Lee embezzled 25.2 billion won from DAS and accepted bribes totaling 9.4 billion won, including 8.9 billion won from Samsung.
These amounts were higher than the embezzlement of 24.6 billion won and bribes worth 8.5 billion won that a lower court recognized.
Throughout his political career, Lee was dogged by suspicions over whether he is the real owner of DAS.
Lee has flatly denied the allegations, repeating his claim that he is not the owner of DAS.
Lee's attorney, Kang Hoon, said he cannot "accept the court's decision," adding they will appeal the ruling.
The prosecution said the case uncovered corrupt ties between politics and business circles and vowed to do its best to ensure "a conclusion that is in line with law and common sense."
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