Prosecutors on Thursday demanded 20 years in jail for former President Lee Myung-bak over a series of corruption charges including bribery and embezzlement.
Along with the jail term, the prosecutors also sought a 15 billion won ($13.4 million) fine and forfeiture of 11.1 billion won, in the last hearing, which began at the Seoul Central District Court at 2 p.m.
“Heavy punishment is inevitable, as the magnitude of the corruption cases appears to be unprecedented,” the prosecutors said. “Lee damaged the values of the Constitution as he privatized authority that was given to him by the people, who elected him president, for his own gains.”
The prosecutors also said Lee left “an ineffaceable stain” on the history of the Constitution, by abusing his power to violate the most important values, such as the order of the democratic market economy, protected by the basic law.
Lee, who served as president from 2008 to 2013, was indicted in April over 16 charges. He is accused of receiving about 11.1 billion won in bribes from the state spy agency, individuals and businesses.
The prosecutors also believe the bribery includes $5 million in litigation fees that Samsung Electronics allegedly paid on behalf of the auto parts manufacturer DAS between 2007 and 2009 as a kickback to the former president in return for the pardon of Samsung’s ex-Chairman Lee Kun-hee.
Former President Lee is also suspected of using DAS to amass slush funds totaling some 33.9 billion won ($31.7 million) from 1994 to 2006. The prosecution has concluded that Lee is the real owner of the controversial auto parts maker DAS, which belongs to Lee Sang-eun, the former president’s brother, on paper.
“Lee knew who the real owner of DAS is, better than anyone, but deceived the entire country, saying (the suspicions) were all ‘downright lies,’” the prosecutors said at Thursday’s hearing.
Other charges include abuse of power, illegally stashing presidential documents and a violation of the election law.
Lee strongly denied the allegations, saying his case was being handled unfairly.
“Most of the charges are related to money. I cannot stand how people fall into the trap. It is absolutely humiliating, for I hate corruption and have always distanced myself from it,” Lee said at the court Thursday.
“I have never held one share of DAS and my brother also claims it is his,” he said.
Over the suspicion that he pardoned the former Samsung chairman, Lee explained he had neither met alone with any of the chairs of conglomerates, nor had he made any secret deals.
“On how the (prosecutors) indicted me on such outrageous suspicion, I feel grief beyond fury,” he said.
“The house I live in is the only property I have, and I do not know about the allegations the prosecutors charged.”
The court is scheduled to reach a verdict on Oct. 5 at 2 p.m., three days before Lee’s detention period expires on Oct. 8.
The conservative former president is the fourth former president to be arrested and put on trial for corruption. Since his arrest in late March, Lee has been under presentencing detention at the Seoul Eastern Detention Center.
He was recently treated for a number of chronic illnesses, including sleep apnea and diabetes, at Seoul National University Hospital for five days before returning to the detention center on Friday.
By Jo He-rim (firstname.lastname@example.org)