Former South Korea President Park Geun-hye's Confidante Jailed For 20 Years

Choi Soon-sil the jailed confidante of impeached South Korean President Park Geun-hye shouts upon her arrival at the office of the independent counsel in Seoul South Korea. A South Korean court is set

Former South Korea President Park Geun-hye's Confidante Jailed For 20 Years

The Seoul Central District Court on Tuesday sentenced ex-President Park Geun-hye's confidante Choi Soon-sil to 20 years in prison and fined her W18 billion for a string of crimes (US$1=W1,086).

The Seoul Central District Court announced Tuesday its ruling and sentencing of Choi, indicted as a co-conspirator of Park's abuse of power and corruption scandal that led to her impeachment.

The court ruling said Choi, who was at the center of the influence peddling scandal that led to Park's impeachment in March past year, abused the presidential power and forced large conglomerates to donate tens of millions of US dollars to two nonprofit foundations controlled by Choi.

Lee was accused of giving some of the bribes that Choi was charged with receiving.

Park was dismissed from the presidency last March after being impeached and standing trial separately on charges of bribery, abuse of power and coercion.

She accepted a total of 14bn won (£9m) from Samsung and Lotte, he said, and "meddled in state affairs widely". The de-facto head of technology giant Samsung Electronics was jailed a year ago in a related trial but he was unexpectedly released last week on appeal, in a ruling that was perceived as a setback to government pledges to curtail the power of the nation's corporate elite.

Chois fellow accused Shin Dong-bin, the chairman of the Lotte group, South Koreas fifth-biggest conglomerate, was sentenced to two and a half years in prison.

He was arrested in court, having been on bail during the trial. Finally, Park's former aide, Ahn Jeong-beom was given a six-month jail term.

"This is a heavy sentence bordering on cruelty", he told reporters.

"We respect the court's decision, but the result is very regretful", Lotte said.

Choi pleaded not guilty.

The scandal, one of the largest in South Korea's modern history, has catalysed wider economic and social frustrations among South Koreans.

The South Korean economy is dominated by giant family-controlled firms known as "chaebol", which powered a decades-long economic boom but have long had murky ties with authorities.

Choi and Park colluded to have Lotte chairman Shin donate 7 billion won to a foundation to build a sports centre, in exchange for the government issuing a licence for a duty-free shop.

Choi was convicted of coercing Samsung Group to fund expensive equestrian training for her daughter, Chung Yoo-ra.

But there was no evidence Samsung had asked for policy favours in order to smooth the succession of Lee Jae-yong, it said.

The verdict is a potential pointer for Park's trial.

But she later denied all charges against her, saying she had little influence over Park.

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