SKorean ex-Prez Park gets 24-yr jail for graft

SKorean ex-Prez Park gets 24-yr jail for graft

SKorean ex-Prez Park gets 24-yr jail for graft

Former South Korean President Park Geun-hye was formally convicted of an array of corruption charges and sentenced to 24 years in prison on Friday, a year after she was driven from office and arrested over a scandal that saw months of massive street rallies calling for her ouster.

Park is the daughter of South Korea's former dictator Park Chung-hee and was the nation's only female president.

In a verdict broadcast live and streamed in cabs, offices and cake shops, the court ruled Park did pressure top business executives to donate millions of dollars to slush funds run by her friend and confidant, Choi Soon-sil in return for government favors.

Prosecutors sought a 30-year sentence and a 118.5 billion won ($112 million) fine for Park, after indicting her on charges that included bribery, abuse of power and coercion.

In December 2016, South Korean legislators overwhelmingly voted to impeach Park, but she refused to resign offering instead an apology while denying any legal wrongdoing.

She was also charged for soliciting bribes from the head of the Samsung Group for government favours.

Choi, who rose to power as an influential confidante of Park, was convicted of corruption in February.

She has been in prison for more than a year, but has refused to appear in court for most of her hearings.

The scandal has already led to the arrests, indictments and convictions of dozens of high-profile government officials and business leaders. Outside the court, hundreds of supporters of Park had gathered to watch the verdict on a large screen, waving Korean and U.S. flags and calling for her release.

Also implicated in the scandal was Samsung chief Lee Jae-yong. They waved South Korean and USA flags and held signs that read, among other things, "Stop murderous political revenge!" "Long live the Republic of Korea!" protester Choi Hyung-suk screamed into a microphone, referring to South Korea by its formal name.

Prosecutors alleged that Park had given Choi unacceptable levels of access to official documents and concealed Choi's involvement in state affairs.

The relations between the Koreas were awful while the conservative Park was in office as she took a hard line against the North over its nuclear and missile tests. She had been under arrest since March previous year.

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