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[Newsmaker] Supreme Court upholds 17-year sentence against ex-president Lee


Former President Lee Myung-bak (Yonhap)
Former President Lee Myung-bak (Yonhap)
The country’s highest court on Thursday upheld a lower court ruling sentencing former President Lee Myung-bak to 17 years in prison for bribery and embezzlement. The Supreme Court also upheld the 13 billion won ($11.4 million) fine and the additional forfeiture of 5.78 billion won that the appeals court handed down in February.

“There is no fault in the previous ruling in terms of fact finding on embezzlement or bribery charges,” the court said in a verdict.

The top court also dismissed the former president’s appeal for bail, sending him back to prison.

Lee, who led the country from 2008 to 2013, was arrested in March 2018 and sentenced seven months later. But he was released on bail in 2019 for health reasons.

The former president had faced charges of embezzling some 34.9 billion won from DAS, a car parts company owned by his brother, and accepting some 16.3 billion won in bribes from Samsung and other companies. He was ultimately convicted of embezzling 25.2 billion won from DAS and accepting bribes totaling 9.4 billion won.

An appellate department of the Seoul High Court previously found that Lee was the actual owner of DAS and that he had exercised his power to help the company grow and to make a personal profit, taking bribes from companies.

The 17-year jail term given by the appellate court was lighter than the 23-year sentence that prosecutors had asked for, but heavier than the 15-year term handed down by a lower court in 2018.

Following the first ruling, Lee was bailed out of jail several months later but was taken back into custody in February this year, after an appellate court handed down a 17-year term and canceled his bail.

He was released again six days later after he appealed that ruling.

Lee, who waited at home for the Supreme Court’s verdict, will be moved to the Seoul Dongbu Detention Center after prosecutors summon him and check his identification and health status. The execution of his sentence is the responsibility of the Seoul Central District Prosecutors’ Office.

It is expected that the prosecution will give him two or three days to settle his personal affairs before summoning him.

Lee’s attorney called the procedure “a clunky trial that disregards the constitutional spirit.”

“It is not normal for the Supreme Court to confirm the previous ruling, even though all the evidence presented by the prosecution do not prove bribes and solicitations were directly delivered to former President Lee,” the attorney said.

Lee is the fourth South Korean president who has been convicted of crimes. The others were Chun Doo-hwan, Roh Tae-woo and Park Geun-hye.

By Park Han-na (hnpark@heraldcorp.com)