SEOUL, Feb. 15– Choi Soon-sil, a decades-long friend of ousted
South Korean President Park Geun-hye, was sentenced to 20 years in jail on
the conviction for multiple corruption charges, heralding a heavy sentence
on Park who was identified as an accomplice to Choi.
The Seoul Central District Court sentenced Choi to 20 years behind bars and
fined her 18 billion won (16.6 million U.S. dollars) for multiple
convictions including abuse of power, extortion and bribery.Prosecutors
originally demanded 25 years in prison for Choi, with a fine of 118.5
billion won (109 million U.S. dollars) and a forfeit of 7.79 billion won
(7.18 million U.S. dollars).The court ruling said Choi, who was at the
center of the influence peddling scandal that led to Park’s impeachment in
March last year, abused the presidential power and forced large
conglomerates to donate tens of millions of U.S. dollars to two nonprofit
foundations controlled by Choi.She was also convicted of receiving 7.29
billion won (6.7 million U.S. dollars) in bribes from Samsung Electronics
Vice Chairman Lee Jae-yong, an heir apparent to Samsung Group, the
country’s biggest family-controlled conglomerate.
Independent counsel Park Young-soo and state prosecutors claimed that Choi
received, or promised to receive, 43.3 billion won (39.9 million U.S.
dollars) from the Samsung heir who was released from prison after the
appeals court’s ruling last week.Lee got a jail term of two and a half
years with a stay of execution for four years in the appellate court’s
trial. The Samsung heir was set free after having been put under custody
for almost a year.The longtime confidante of the impeached president was
taken into custody in November 2016, and was indicted in the same month for
18 corruption counts. She was accused of intervening in state affairs from
the shadows even though she had no official post in the Park government.
The verdict on Choi heralded a heavy punishment on the ousted president as
the court ruled that Choi was complicit with Park in abusing the
presidential power and extorting a huge money from large conglomerates.The
sentencing trial for Park was forecast to be held in late March. Park has
refused to appear in court hearings in protest at the decision to extend
the presentencing detention of Park for as long as six months in October
last year.Meanwhile, An Chong-bum, former senior secretary for Park, was
sentenced to six years in jail and fined 100 million won (92,225 U.S.
dollars). Prosecutors originally requested a six-year imprisonment for
An.The court verdict said An was complicit with Choi and Park in coercing
tens of conglomerates to make donations to the Choi-controlled
foundations.Lotte Group Chairman Shin Dong-bin got a jail term of two and a
half years for bribery, forfeiting 7 billion won (6.5 million U.S.
dollars). Prosecutors demanded four years in jail.Shin was immediately put
under custody in the courtroom. The court ruled that the Lotte chairman
offered 7 billion won in bribe to one of the Choi-controlled foundations in
return for business favors. – XINHUA