South Korean prosecutors seek arrest warrant for ex-president

Former South Korean President Lee Myung-bak. Photo: Kim Hong-Ji/Pool Photo via AP, File

South Korean prosecutors have requested an arrest warrant for ex-president Lee Myung-bak over allegations of bribery, embezzlement and other charges.

Mr Lee, a conservative who governed from 2008 to 2013, is the latest South Korean leader to be entangled in scandals or other problems after leaving office. His conservative successor, Park Geun-hye, was removed from office and jailed last year in a separate corruption scandal.

Prosecutors last month demanded a 30-year prison term for Park, the country's first female president.

The Seoul Central District Prosecutors' Office said it has asked a court to approve Lee's arrest.

South Korean media claimed Seoul Central District Court will likely decide whether to issue an arrest warrant by Wednesday night at the earliest.

Prosecutors accuse Mr Lee of taking a total of 11 billion won (£7 million) in bribes from his own intelligence agency, business groups and a former MP. Prosecutors also allege Mr Lee used a car parts manufacturer as a channel to establish illicit slush funds totalling 30 billion won (£20 million).

Mr Lee has called the allegations political revenge by the current government of liberal president Moon Jae-in. Mr Lee referred to the 2009 suicide of liberal ex-president Roh Moo-hyun, who jumped to his death during a corruption investigation involving his family when Mr Lee was president. Mr Moon, who was Mr Roh's chief of staff, previously called the investigation of Mr Roh by the Lee government politically motivated.

Almost all South Korean presidents, their family members and key associates have been either arrested or embroiled in corruption scandals and other troubles before they ended their terms or after they left office.

Park's father, Park Chung-hee, a former army general who ruled with an iron fist in the 1970-80s, was assassinated by his spy chief during a drinking party.

Mr Lee, a former Hyundai executive who led the company's meteoric rise and built a reputation as a man who can get things done, took office with a promise to boost the economy and take a harder line toward North Korea. But his five-year term was dominated by rising animosity with North Korea, massive public protests against imports of US beef and an economy hit by the global financial meltdown.

- PA

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