Published: Fri, February 16, 2018
Technology | By Russell Knight

Friend of former South Korea leader jailed for 20 years

Friend of former South Korea leader jailed for 20 years

She had acted for years as an adviser to park, who has been impeached and is also on trial.

Choi was at the heart of a massive corruption scandal that brought down park, the country's first female president.

Choi was unheard of until late 2016 when it was revealed to the public that she was editing the president's speeches and picking out her clothing without holding a government position.

She accepted more than 14 billion won ($13 million) from telecommunications giant Samsung and retail conglomerate Lotte, he said, and "meddled in state affairs widely".

The court also ordered the immediate arrest of Shin Dong-bin, the chairman of Lotte, the country's fifth-largest conglomerate, after sentencing him to 30 months in prison on Tuesday.

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For Lotte, a conglomerate with businesses including chemicals and hotels, the decision comes after a sweeping reorganization past year that created a holding company for numerous companies assets and consolidated Shin's control.

Choi took advantage of her long-running, private ties with Park, Judge Kim Se-yoon said, to force big South Korean companies such as Samsung to give donations to two foundations, which were meant to be used to encourage sports but were instead slush funds for Park and Choi.

The then senior economic secretary to Park was given six years in prison yesterday for blackmailing conglomerates into making contributions to two foundations run by Choi.

Shin was immediately put under custody in the courtroom.

"We admit we have failed to convince the court judges that the accused Choi is not guilty".

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Shin was also fined 7 billion won. "We will do our best to have a different ruling in the appeals court".

In the Lotte case, the court said Chairman Shin Dong-bin offered 7 billion won ($6.5 million) in payments to Choi's foundations to curry favors such as winning a state license to open a duty-free shop and to strengthen his control over the group. "Park is likely to draw a heavier sentence", he said, "possibly up to 25 years in prison".

The sentencing sent a shockwave through the South Korean business community, which had been relieved to see an appeals court release Samsung heir Lee Jae-yong from prison last week on a suspended sentence with some of his convictions overturned.

The disgraced ex-leader is also standing trial over the scandal, but has refused to show up in court in protest of the extension of her detention, claiming she is being made a target of "political revenge".

Yesterday's verdict was "definitely bad news for Park Geun-hye", said Gang Moon-dae of activist group Lawyers for a Democratic Society, given the similarity of the charges in the two proceedings.

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