Former Korean president Park Geun-Hye accused of taking bribes from spies
Seoul — Ousted South Korean president Park Geun-Hye was charged on Thursday with accepting millions in bribes from the state spy agency, news reports said.
Park allegedly received between 50-million and 200-million won (now about R578,000 to R2.3m) from the National Intelligence Service (NIS) every month from early 2013 — soon after her swearing-in — until mid-2016, prosecutors told South Korean media.
The cash — said to total 3.65-billion won — was reportedly delivered by NIS agents to Park’s aides in uncrowded parking lots or in back alleys near the presidential Blue House.
The money came from the spy agency’s "blind budget" — millions of dollars of special funds that can be spent without receipts for anti-espionage activities — Yonhap news agency said.
Park is said to have spent much of the funds for personal purposes, including Botox injections, clothes and illicit mobile phones used by her friends, including close confidante Choi Soon-Sil.
Prosecutors have demanded 25 years in prison for Choi, charged with colluding with Park to extort millions of dollars from conglomerates including Samsung.
Park is already on trial on 18 charges including bribery, coercion and abuse of power for offering governmental favours to tycoons. Prosecutors will add two more counts — bribery and embezzlement — to the indictment regarding the payments, reports said.
South Korea’s first female president was impeached by parliament after months of mass protests over a sprawling graft scandal, and the constitutional court upheld the decision in March 2017, dismissing her from office. She has been in custody since March 31.
Her trial began in May but she has refused to attend since October, infuriated by a court decision to extend her detention by six months. Her legal team also quit over the extension, accusing the judges of bias. Park has since refused to cooperate with a team of state-sponsored defence lawyers appointed by the court.
Prosecutors sought to question Park in prison twice over the fresh allegations, but she refused to cooperate.
Two former NIS chiefs have been indicted over the bribery charges.