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Politics

South Korea charges ex-President Lee with accepting $10m in bribes

Indictment makes him the country's fourth former ruler to be prosecuted

South Korea's former President Lee Myung-bak denies the charges against him and accuses the current administration of deliberately targeting him.   © Reuters

SEOUL -- South Korean investigators charged former President Lee Myung-bak on Monday with taking a total of around 11.1 billion won, or $10 million, in bribes while in office, bringing the country's tally of former chiefs of state to be prosecuted to four.

Lee's successor Park Geun-hye -- who was impeached and removed last year -- was sentenced Friday to 24 years in prison on charges including graft and abuse of power. In the 1990s, former military dictator Chun Doo-hwan and his successor Roh Tae-woo were prosecuted on charges stemming from the 1979 coup that brought Chun to power.

The lodging of criminal proceedings against both of South Korea's most recent ex-presidents is certain to provoke a backlash among their fellow conservatives.

Lee reportedly has refused to cooperate with the investigation against him since his arrest March 22. In a statement posted on Facebook Monday through an aide, he denied the charges and accused the administration of current President Moon Jae-in of seeking to bring down the liberal democratic system.

The indictment centers on allegations that Lee took about 700 million won ($655,970) in bribes from the National Intelligence Service and foisted around 6.8 billion won in legal fees stemming from auto parts company DAS -- which he essentially owns -- onto the Samsung conglomerate. The ex-president is accused of having accepted up to about 11.1 billion won in bribes altogether.

Lee's first public court hearings could take place as soon as early May, according to South Korean media.

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