South Korean prosecutors on Monday charged ousted president Park Geun-hye and Lotte Group chairman Shin Dong-bin with bribery in the latest twist to a corruption scandal that rocked the country for months. Prosecutors charged Shin without detaining him.
Park, whose impeachment was confirmed by Seoul’s top court last month, is at the centre of a sprawling graft investigation, which has also implicated top businessmen and brought millions of people onto the streets.
The former leader, already detained at a centre near Seoul, also faces charges of abusing her powers and leaking state secrets, Seoul prosecutors probing the scandal said in a statement.
“We have formally charged Park… with multiple offences including abuse of power, coercion, bribery and leaking state secrets,” they said after wrapping up the months-long investigation.
Park is accused of colluding with her confidante at the heart of the scandal, Choi Soon-sil, who is already on trial for coercing local conglomerates into donating a total of 77.4 billion won ($68 million) to two non-profit foundations.
Choi allegedly used some of the donations for personal gain.
Park is also accused of offering policy favours to top businessmen who enriched Choi, including Samsung heir Lee Jae-Yong who was arrested earlier and is also on trial for bribery.
Shin allegedly offered seven billion won ($6.15 million) to a sports foundation linked with Choi in exchange for a policy favour from Park over Lotte’s duty-free business.
Park, 65-year-old daughter of the late former dictator Park Chung-Hee, spent nearly two decades living in Seoul’s sprawling presidential palace, before the allegations of corruption engulfed her presidency late last year.
Her father is widely revered by aged, conservative South Koreans who benefited from the rapid economic growth under his iron-fisted rule from 1961 to 1979.
Parliament impeached Park last December and she lost her executive privilege — including protection from criminal indictment — last month when the Constitutional Court confirmed her impeachment, sending her into detention.
Park is the third former leader to be arrested and charged over corruption in Asia’s fourth-largest economy long plagued by cozy and corrupt ties between big businesses and regulators.