S. Korean ex-President Park gets 24-year jail for graft

Seoul, April 6 (IANS) South Korean former President Park Geun-hye was sentenced to 24 years in prison and was fined 18 billion won on Friday in a massive corruption scandal that toppled her from power in 2017.

In a live televised trial, the Seoul Central District Court meted out the guilty verdict for the 66-year-old former leader, about a year after her arrest in March 2017, Yonhap news agency reported.
Park was convicted of 16 counts of corruption including bribery, coercion and abuse of power. “The President abused the power which was given to her by the citizens,” the judge said, adding a tough sentence was needed to send a firm message to the country’s future leaders.
Prosecutors had asked for Park to receive a 30-year sentence. Outside the court, hundreds of supporters of Park had gathered to watch the verdict on a large screen, waving Korean and US flags and calling for her release.
South Korea’s first female President, who took office in early 2013, became the nation’s first elected head of state to be ousted and now the third former leader to be convicted of corruption.
The scandal led to parliamentary impeachment of Park in December 2016. She was formally removed from office by the Constitutional Court on March 10, 2017.
Park did not appear in Friday’s sentencing trial. She has been boycotting the hearing in protest of the court’s October decision to extend her incarceration six months.
The former President was found to have colluded with her close friend, Choi Soon-sil, to pressure conglomerates for bribes in return for political favours.
Choi, who rose to power as an influential confidante of Park, was convicted of corruption in February. Their relationship had been the subject of intense public scrutiny amid allegations that Choi had undue influence over a nation’s affairs through her connection with Park.
Prosecutors alleged that Park had given Choi unacceptable levels of access to official documents and concealed Choi’s involvement in state affairs.
Also implicated in the scandal was Samsung chief Lee Jae-yong. The 49-year-old billionaire was found guilty of bribery and other corruption charges in 2017 and sentenced to five years in prison, but in February a higher court reduced his sentence and suspended it for four years.

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