Lee is now the fourth former president to be arrested on suspicion of corruption. In addition, it is the second time two former presidents have been in custody since 1995, when Chun Doo-hwan and Roh Tae-woo were arrested.
|Former President Lee Myung-bak boards a vehicle as he was taken into custody on Friday. Yonhap|
The arrest warrant, executed in the early hours of Friday, enables the prosecution to hold the former leader for up to 10 days. However, it is widely speculated that the prosecution will seek an extension, and push for an indictment some time before April 10.
While Lee did not issue an official statement at the time of his arrest, he appears to have anticipated the development.
“At this time, I do not blame anyone, but feel a sense of self-reproach,” Lee said in a hand-written letter posted on his social media account at 11:14 p.m. Thursday. The arrest warrant for Lee was issued minutes before Lee posted photographs of the letter.
Lee, who denies his involvement in a long string of allegations, cited his achievements and defended in integrity in the letter.
“(I) endeavored to break away from wrong customs of the past and carry out clean politics, but there were shortcomings compared to the standards of the people today,” Lee said, going on to say that the country overcame “the biggest financial crisis since the Great Depression” under his watch.
Lee also said that he suffered “unendurable pain” in the past 10 months, and expressed hopes that his arrest will ease the burden on his family, and associates. A number of his family members and closest aides including wife Kim Yoon-ok, son Lee Si-hyung, and siblings face allegations of corruption.
In issuing the warrant, the Seoul Central District Court recognized the prosecution’s concerns for destruction of evidence, and flight risk posed by Lee.
Lee faces more than a dozen allegations including bribery, embezzlement, tax evasion and abuse of power.
Charges against him include receiving 700 million won ($647,000) from the National Intelligence Service, and taking bribes totaling 11.1 billion won from companies and businessmen including Samsung Electronics.
Lee is also accused of embezzling 35 billion won from the auto parts maker DAS. Although on paper the company is owned by Lee’s eldest brother Lee Sang-eun, it is suspected that the former president is the actual owner of the company.
By Choi He-suk (email@example.com)