Prosecutor Seeks Arrest Warrant for Ex-President Lee for Corruption

Ben Cho, March 19, 2018, 8:52 a.m.


Prosecutors on Monday requested a court warrant to arrest former President Lee Myung-bak over a string of corruption charges that include bribery, embezzlement and abuse of power. Lee, president from 2008-2013, is suspected of taking about 11 billion won (US$10.3 million) in bribes from the state intelligence agency, businesses and others.

He is believed to be the real owner of DAS, a auto parts maker at the center of the scandal. Prosecutors suspect 30 billion won (US$28.2 million) of illicit funds were created through the company and related businesses. On paper, the company belongs to his elder brother, Lee Sang-eun.

Lee is suspected of exerting power through government agencies to help a DAS lawsuit in the U.S. which was filed to recoup the company's investment, and of moving classified state documents to DAS' warehouse.

If the warrant is issued, he will become the country's fourth former president to be arrested on criminal charges. Prosecutors questioned Lee for 21 hours on Wednesday and Thursday. The chief of the Seoul Central District Prosecutors' Office reported the results of the investigation to Prosecutor General Moon Moo-il on Friday.

The prosecution said the decision to seek an arrest warrant was made because of the graveness of the allegations concerning Lee and the risk of him destroying evidence.

"We explained the unavoidable need for his arrest, and also that there is a great risk of him destroying evidence since he has denied even basic facts related to the allegations," a prosecution official told reporters.

Prosecutors have been looking into fresh suspicions that Lee received about 200 million won in bribes ahead of the 2007 presidential election from a Buddhist monk seeking Lee's influence in establishing a Buddhist university.

Prosecutors had reportedly been pitching strongly for an arrest warrant in light of the seriousness of the case and concerns that Lee could attempt to destroy evidence or manipulate witnesses, as he denies most of the charges.

The chief prosecutor was said to be taking into consideration opposing views that Lee's arrest wouldn't make a big difference and that it would be enough to indict him without physical detention because prosecutors have secured enough evidence.

Meanwhile, prosecutors are looking into whether to call in Lee's wife, Kim Yoon-ok, for questioning about suspicions that she took close to 1 billion won in illicit money from the state intelligence agency and others.

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