Conservative ex-president Lee Myung-bak arrested for alleged corruption

Lim Chang-won Reporter Posted : 2018-03-23 08:47 Updated : 2018-03-23 09:24
글씨작게 글씨크게

Prosecutors escort ex-president Lee Myung-bak out of his home in Seoul into prison. [Photo by Yoo Dae-gil =]

SEOUL -- South Korea's conservative ex-president Lee Myung-bak landed in jail for alleged corruption and other illegal activities, becoming the country's fourth national leader to be imprisoned, as his disgraced successor is on trial for her role in a massive corruption scandal.

Prosecutors escorted Lee out of his home into a detention center in eastern Seoul after a Seoul court issued an arrest warrant shortly before midnight Thursday. Like his jailed successor, Park Geun-hye, Lee was housed in a solitary cell.

Lee, a former Seoul mayor who served as president from 2008 to early 2013, faces multiple charges including bribery, embezzlement, tax evasion, breach of trust and abuse of power.

Lee, 76, has denied any wrongdoing, describing the probe as political retaliation for the death of his predecessor, Roh Moo-hyun, who threw himself off a mountain cliff in 2009 following a humiliating probe into alleged corruption involving his family.

The court approved Lee's arrest, citing the danger of tampering with evidence. The ex-president wearing a necktie and a coat nodded and waved to some 20 supporters and family members as he walked out of his home in southern Seoul.

In a handwritten statement posted on Facebook, Lee said he feels a sense of guilt. "Rather than blaming anybody, I feel all is my fault. I feel a sense of guilt," he wrote, insisting he had tried to eradicate wrong practices and make a clean politics during his tenure, but his work fell short of public expectations.

"I've had an unbearable pain in the past 10 months. My family is suffering from the destruction of morality, and I can not sleep if I think about people who worked without a holiday but suffer from me," Lee said.  "I wish my arrest could relieve the pain of my family and those who have worked with me. I hope someday I will be able to get back to my real life and speak out."

Lee is suspected of receiving about 11 billion won (10.28 million US dollars) in bribes and creating a slush fund estimated at 35 billion won. Prosecutors have questioned Lee's family members and key aides. The key issue is DAS, an auto parts supplier for Hyundai Motor. There have been allegations that Lee is the real owner of DAS controlled by his elder brother and used the company to create a slush fund.