S.Korea Prosecutor Ready to Indict Impeached President Ms.Park:
Pakistan Supreme Court Sits on Nawaz Sharif Panama Case Judgement
Prosecutor Pushes for Indictment of South Korean President in Samsung Scandal
FEB. 28, 2017
Ms. Park’s presidential powers have been suspended since the impeachment vote in December. The Constitutional Court is expected to rule in the coming weeks on whether she should be reinstated or formally removed from office. Even if she resumes the presidency, her five-year term ends in February, after which she can face criminal charges.
On Monday, Ms. Park’s lawyer, Yu Young-ha, rejected the special prosecutor’s findings, saying his investigation was “politically biased” and “lacking in fairness.” He called the bribery allegation “an absurd fiction.”
But on Monday, Mr. Park, the special prosecutor, who is not related to Ms. Park, said his team found enough evidence that Ms. Park and her confidante, Choi Soon-sil, conspired to collect bribes from Samsung.
On Feb. 28, he indicted Lee Jae-yong, the third-generation scion of the family that runs Samsung, on charges of giving or promising $38 million in bribes to Ms. Park and Ms. Choi. He also added a bribery charge to the case against Ms. Choi, who is already on trial.
Mr. Lee offered the bribes in return for political favors from Ms. Park, most notably government support for a merger of two Samsung affiliates in 2015 that helped him inherit corporate control of the Samsung conglomerate from his incapacitated father, Lee Kun-hee, the prosecutor said.
Acting on Ms. Park’s order, her aides forced the government-controlled National Pension Service, a major shareholder at the two Samsung companies, to vote for the merger, though it was opposed by many minority shareholders and devalued the pension fund’s own stocks there, the prosecutor said.
On Monday, Samsung denied the special prosecutor’s findings.
“Samsung has not paid bribes nor made improper requests seeking favors,” it said in a statement. “Future court proceedings will reveal the truth.”
On Monday, Mr. Park, the special prosecutor, said that the president should also face a criminal charge of abusing official power, saying she conspired with aides to blacklist thousands of artists, writers, and movie directors deemed unfriendly to her government and exclude them from government-funded support programs.
Ms. Park also fired three senior Culture Ministry officials who had been reluctant to discriminate against some of the 9,473 names on the list, the prosecutor said. She demoted and later fired another senior ministry official who had angered Ms. Choi, her friend, by investigating allegations of corruption involving her family, the prosecutor said.
While blackballing unfriendly artists, Ms. Park’s office ensured that pro-government civic groups received special favors, he said.
It asked the Federation of Korean Industries, which lobbies on behalf of Samsung and other big businesses, to provide $5.9 million for those groups between 2014 and 2016, the special prosecutor said. Some of those groups, like the right-wing Korea Parent Federation, have held noisy protests in downtown Seoul calling the critics of Ms. Park “commies.”
Besides Samsung, scores of other South Korean companies were found to have made payments to two foundations controlled by Ms. Choi. But on Monday, the special prosecutor did not recommend further actions against them, and state prosecutors had earlier said that those companies were coerced to donate and were not engaged in bribery.
Ms. Park has repeatedly denied any legal wrongdoing, insisting that she was framed by hostile political forces and that she was not aware of any criminal conspiracy by Ms. Choi. She said she only let Ms. Choi edit some of her speeches and run her personal errands.
On Monday, the special prosecutor said Ms. Park and Ms. Choi had 573 phone conversations between April and October last year using cell phones issued under borrowed names. Of these calls, 127 took place between September, when Ms. Choi left for Germany, and October when she returned home to be arrested.
The prosecutor accused Ms. Park of impeding his investigation. She refused to be questioned by his investigators and also did not allow them to search her office. As a result, he said his team could not fully determine what she was doing at her residence for seven hours in April 2014, when a ferry loaded with hundreds of schoolchildren sank, killing more than 300.
Ms. Park said she was working at the time, getting reports on the disaster. But she has been haunted by lurid rumors, some of them claiming that she was having a romantic encounter or undergoing plastic surgery.
On Monday, the prosecutor said a cosmetic surgeon gave Ms. Park at least five simple face-lifting operations at her residence between 2013 and 2016. Even unlicensed people visited her there to give her nutritional shots and help her with kinesiotherapy and reiki, a form of traditional healing. But investigators could not find evidence that such things took place on the day of the ferry disaster.