Published: Wed, March 14, 2018
Worldwide | By Isabel Fisher

South Korean Ex-President Faces Interrogation Over Corruption Charges

South Korean Ex-President Faces Interrogation Over Corruption Charges

Former South Korean President Lee Myung-bak is being investigated for allegedly accepting millions of dollars' worth of bribes. Former South Korean president Lee Myung-bak reported to prosecutors for questioning in a corruption probe on March 14 and apologised for the controversy.

Lee, 76, said he was sorry for "causing concern" as he stood before a bustling crowd of journalists outside the Seoul Central District Prosecutor's Office, according to Yonhap News Agency.

Former conservative President Park Geun-hye, Lee's successor, was removed from office previous year for an influence-peddling scandal involving her longtime friend Choi Soon-sil.

Both Samsung and Lee have denied the allegations as groundless. "As a former president, I do have a lot of things I want to say, but I promised myself I have to save my words".

Lee is also accused of taking a total of 11 billion won in bribes from the state spy agency, as well as Samsung and others, including from a former chief of a major banking group, around the time of his election win and in the early years of his term in office. They are Kang Hoon, 64, a judge-turned-lawyer who also served as Lee's former presidential legal assistant, Pi Young-hyun, 48, and Kim Byung-cheol, 43.

Samsung reportedly paid six billion won ($5.6 million) in legal fees to a U.S. law firm on the former president's behalf.

While it is typical practice to end a prosecutorial probe as late as midnight, some expect Lee's questioning to continue to the next day, given the large number of allegations against him.

"It would be a shame if the prosecution fails to prove Lee's wrongdoings". Lee has previously called the investigation "political revenge" orchestrated by the current liberal government of President Moon Jae-in, a statement that prompted fury from Moon.

With Lee condemning the accusations against him as political retaliation, the questioning session was expected to continue into the night.

Police dispatched 13 squads of over 1,000 officers to provide security near the prosecution office in Seocho, southern Seoul, and around Lee's residence, about 4.7 kilometers from the prosecution building.

Two other ex-presidents, Chun Dioo-hwan and Roh Tae-woo, were tried and convicted in the 1990s for bribery, treason and other charges for their involvement in a 1979 military coup and each spent two years in prison.

Lee's own predecessor, the liberal Roh Moo-hyun, committed suicide by jumping off a cliff after being questioned over corruption allegations in 2009.

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