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Former South Korean President Park Geun-hye Indicted for Bribery

17 Apr 2017 8:42 am
By Eun-Young Jeong and Jonathan Cheng 

SEOUL--South Korean prosecutors indicted former President Park Geun-hye on a number of charges including bribery, taking aim at the central figure in a massive corruption scandal that has led to more than 30 indictments of some of the country's highest-profile figures in government and business, including Samsung Group's de facto leader, Lee Jae-yong.

On Monday, South Korean prosecutors also indicted Shin Dong-bin, the chairman of Lotte Group, South Korea's fifth-largest conglomerate, on bribery charges. Mr. Shin is the second conglomerate head to be indicted in the scandal after Samsung's Mr. Lee.

Prosecutors described Ms. Park as the key player in the scandal, which was largely sparked in October last year after a local broadcaster reported that the president had shared classified government documents with a close friend, Choi Soon-sil. Prosecutors say Ms. Choi used her access to the president to meddle in state affairs and enrich herself.

Prosecutors allege Ms. Park colluded with Ms. Choi and wrongfully exercised her authority as president to extract 77.4 billion South Korean won ($68 million) from 18 conglomerates, including the Samsung and Lotte business empires, for donations to two entities allegedly linked to Ms. Choi. Prosecutors say some of the conglomerates received political favors that were supported by Ms. Park.

Lotte on Monday said it was disappointed by the decision to indict Mr. Shin, adding that contributions were made as part of a corporate social responsibility program. In the past, Ms. Park and her confidante, Ms. Choi, have denied wrongdoing.

Ms. Park was impeached by the co untry's National Assembly in December. Last month, the eight members of the Constitutional Court voted unanimously to remove her from office, stripping her of immunity from criminal prosecution.

Prosecutors summoned her for a marathon round of questioning before a court granted an arrest warrant for her, putting her behind bars while she awaited an indictment.

The formal charges set the stage for a trial for Ms. Park that is expected to begin in the coming weeks; it could begin around the time of a snap election to replace her as president on May 9. Ms. Park can be detained for up to six months without a court ruling as the hearings proceed.

Write to Eun-Young Jeong at Eun-Young.Jeong@wsj.com and Jonathan Cheng at jonathan.cheng@wsj.com

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

April 17, 2017 04:42 ET (08:42 GMT)

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