South Korean ex-president Lee Myung-bak questioned on graft

South Korean ex-president Lee Myung-bak questioned on graft

Former President Lee Myung-bak was grilled by prosecutors on Wednesday over a string of corruption allegations including bribery, embezzlement and abuse of power.

Ahead of Wednesday's interrogation, prosecutors reportedly prepared 100 pages of questions related to the period of Lee's 2008 election victory and subsequent administration.

He stands accused of almost 20 criminal allegations, including receiving illicit funds of some 11.1 billion won ($10.4 million) from the state spy agency, individuals and businesses, including Samsung.

In return for the legal fee offer, Samsung Electronics Chairman Lee Kun-hee is believed to have bought a presidential pardon in 2009 when the Samsung chairman, now in hospital, had got a suspended jail sentence for tax evasion. "It is sad that the figures who had led this country were actually at the forefront of irregularities", Choi Yoon-hee, a 26-year-old office worker, told The Korea Herald as she passed by the prosecutor's office in Seoul. Before a swarm of media crews, he apologized to the public and expressed a veiled regret about the probe. "I offer my deepest apology to the people for causing worry amid times when the economy is in hardship and the situation surrounding the Korean peninsula is serious", Lee said. He hoped that he is the country's last president in history to be investigated by prosecutors.

They were looking for possible evidence that Samsung provided financial support in litigation fees for an auto parts maker called DAS, run by Lee's family and allegedly controlled by him, the prosecutors' office said.

Lee is also suspected of dodging taxes through accounting fraud in the DAS and by owning real estate assets and bank deposits under borrowed names. Lee is expected to return home after the questioning, but prosecutors are thought likely to then ask a court for an arrest warrant. Some of his key aides, including a wealth manager, have been arrested.

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Police dispatched 13 squads of over 1,000 officers to provide security near the prosecution office in Seocho, southern Seoul, and around Lee's residence, about 4.7 kilometers from the prosecution building.

The ex-president rose to political power after a successful career as chief executive of Hyundai Engineering & Construction Co.

The investigation into Lee means all four living former South Korean presidents have been convicted, charged, or embroiled in criminal inquiries.

"It has been less than a year since former President Park Geun-hye was ousted and put on trial".

After the South embraced democracy in the 1990s former dictator Chun Doo-Hwan and his friend and successor Roh Tae-Woo were handed death sentences for their involvement in a 1979 military coup and for receiving hundreds of millions of dollars in bribes from businesses.

Former South Korean President Lee Myung-bak arrives at the Seoul Central District Prosecutors' Office, in Seoul, South Korea, March 14, 2018.

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