Choi Soon-sil had been a friend of former South Korean president Park Geun-hye for decades
15 February, 2018, 11:35
Seoul's District Court sentenced Choi Soon-sil on Tuesday on 18 charges including abuse of power, coercion, fraud and bribe, and ordered her to pay 18 billion won ($16.6 million).
Choi's actions bought millions of protesters onto the streets of central Seoul in what is now called "The Candlelit Revolution" - the biggest demonstrations witnessed since the "People Power" protests that led to Korea's democratization in 1987.
The court found Choi guilty of accepting 7.3 billion won from Samsung in sponsorship of her daughter's equestrian training, in line with a lower court ruling in August on Samsung's de facto head Lee Jae-yong. Choi received a three-year prison term last June in a separate case related to influence-peddling in university admissions.
Prosecutors originally demanded 25 years in prison for Choi, with a fine of 118.5 billion won (109 million USA dollars) and a forfeit of 7.79 billion won (7.18 million US dollars).
The court also sentenced the chairman of the Lotte Group, the country's fifth-largest conglomerate, to two years and six months in prison in the same case.
Choi took advantage of "long private ties" with Park to force companies to donate funds to foundations she controlled, the judge said. "Park is likely to draw a heavier sentence", he said, "possibly up to 25 years in prison".
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The "female Rasputin" at the heart of the corruption scandal that brought down a South Korean president was sentenced to 20 years in prison today in the latest in a series of sensational criminal trials.
The outcome of Choi's trial is seen as a preview to Park's trial, as she was labeled a co-conspirator in 14 of Choi's 18 charges, in addition to her own. However, last week's ruling said Lee's bribe-giving was a "passive compliance to political power", appearing to put the weight of the blame on Park and Choi. She also said that she only wanted to help Park with his work and never thought of pursuing any personal benefits from it. Choi was said to be very calm during her sentencing.
The appeals court ruling that allowed Lee, Samsung's vice chairman, to be freed last week after almost a year in jail said Lee was unable to reject Park's request to financially support Choi and was coerced into making the payments.
The court said Choi is guilty of receiving or demanding bribes from Lotte Group and SK Group through K-Sports Foundation. Park's presidency ended a year short following the Constitutional Court's March 10 ruling on her ousting.
Choi Soon-sil (L), Park Geun-hye's longtime friend and confidante; An Chong-bum (C), Park's former senior aide; and Lotte Group chairman Shin Dong-bin are shown in this composite photo on February 13, 2018 as they enter the Seoul Central District Court to attend their sentencing over the corruption that led to Park's ousting.
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