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Ex-P.M. given suspended prison term for corruption

A Seoul court on Friday sentenced former Prime Minister Lee Wan-koo to eight months in jail, suspended for two years, for taking illegal political funds from a deceased businessman at the center of a high-profile bribery scandal.

Lee was charged last July for receiving a bag carrying 30 million won ($24,865) from former Keangnam Enterprises chairman Sung Woan-jong while running in a by-election in 2013. Sung was found dead last April in an apparent suicide amid a prosecutorial probe into the scandal involving prominent politicians and former government officials.

Lee had denied meeting Sung on the day the deceased businessman claimed to have given him money.

Seoul Central District Court said that it was reasonable to believe that the two had met and Lee received the bag from Sung. It cited the credibility of the witness testimony against Lee ― by Sung’s former confidant ― and the interview recording to Sung explaining the procedures of the bribery.

Lee said he would appeal.

“It is deeply regrettable that the court accepted the prosecution’s claims word for word. ... I will fight for my innocence via a just procedure and uncover the truth,” he told reporters.

Lee stepped down from his post on April 27 over the scandal, dubbed the “Sung Woan-jong list” by the media. He frustrated the public as he sought to build an image as a corruption-buster by launching a “war against corruption” a month before the scandal erupted.

Other notable names on the list included President Park Geun-hye’s former chiefs of staff Kim Ki-choon and Huh Tae-yeol, along with South Gyeongsang Province Gov. Hong Joon-pyo, all of whom have denied the allegations. Hong has also been indicted for receiving 100 million won from Sung, and is currently undergoing trial.

(minsikyoon@heraldcorp.com)
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