South Korean prosecutors formally charged jailed ex-President Lee Myung-bak with a range of corruption charges on Monday, making him the country's fourth leader to face a criminal trial in about two decades.
Continue Reading Below
Last Friday, Lee's conservative successor, Park Geun-hye, was sentenced to 24 years in prison in a separate corruption scandal for which she was removed from office following months of huge anti-government rallies.
The Seoul Central District Prosecutors' Office said it charged Lee with taking a total of 11 billion won ($10 million) in bribes from the country's spy agency, Samsung and others.
The bribes include 700 million won ($636,000) from the National Intelligence Agency's official funds and $5.8 million in legal expenses that Samsung paid on behalf of his private auto parts company, DAS, a prosecutors' statement said.
It said Lee's government provided Samsung with special favors such as a 2009 pardon of its convicted chairman, Lee Kun-hee, in return for the bribes. Lee had been earlier fined and sentenced to a suspended three-year prison term in connection with losses at a Samsung affiliate and tax evasion.
Lee Myung-bak has also been charged with embezzling about 35 billion won ($33 million) in funds from DAS and evading corporate taxes totaling 3 billion won ($281,270), according to the prosecutors.
Most of Lee's alleged crimes took place while he served as president from 2008 to 2013 or when he was a leading conservative ruling party candidate before winning the 2007 election, prosecutors said.
Lee was a Hyundai executive and a Seoul mayor before becoming the country's first president with a business background.
He has been held at a Seoul detention center since his arrest last month. He has accused the current liberal government of President Moon Jae-in of retaliating against him for the 2009 death of Moon's friend, liberal ex-President Roh Moo-hyun, who leapt to his death during a corruption investigation of his family while Lee was in office.
South Korea has taken a series of steps aimed at rooting out corruption in recent years, but high-profile graft scandals involving politicians and business leaders often occur. Almost all South Korean presidents have been arrested or embroiled in scandals at the close of their terms or after leaving office.
Before Park and Lee, two other ex-presidents, Chun Doo-hwan and Roh Tae-woo, both former army generals, were convicted of bribery, mutiny and treason and spent time in prison. Park's father, dictator Park Chung-hee, was assassinated by his own spy chief in 1979 following 18 years of strong-arm rule.