South Korean prosecutors seek arrest of ex-president Park for taking bribes
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South Korean prosecutors said on Monday they will seek an arrest warrant for ousted president Park Geun-hye, which would see her held in a cell for up to 20 days while being investigated on charges of taking bribes from big businesses.
In the latest twist in this shocking affair, Park, 65, became South Korea's first democratically elected president to be removed from office when a constitutional court upheld her parliamentary impeachment this month.
Park is accused of colluding with her highly-controversial friend (see below), Choi Soon-sil, to pressure big businesses to donate to two foundations set up to back the former president’s policy initiatives.
She and Choi have always vehemently denied any wrongdoing.
In announcing the call to seek an arrest warrant, the prosecutors' office said there was reason to suspect that Park would try to destroy any incriminating evidence.
"The case is very grave as the suspect has demonstrated acts of abuse of power by making companies give money and infringing on the freedom of corporate management by using powerful position and authority as president," the prosecutors' office said in a statement.
Park questioned for 14 hours
Park, who is currently free from detention, was questioned for 14 hours by prosecutors last week.
If the court grants the arrest warrant, Park will become the country's third former president to be detained in custody while being investigated.
Once Park is under arrest, the prosecutor will have up to 20 days to continue investigations, by which time they must file charges against her.
Park could face more than 10 years in jail if convicted of receiving bribes from bosses of big conglomerates, including Samsung Group chief Jay Y. Lee, in return for favours.
Lee, who also denies charges that he provided bribes in return for favours for Samsung, and Choi are in detention and are separately on trial.
Mother and father assasinated
Park has acknowledged carelessness in her ties with Choi, who Park has said had helped her through difficult times. Back in 2016, Park said she had been living a "lonely life" as president and had turned to Choi for company and help.
Choi is the daughter of late religious leader Choi Tae-Min, who was married six times, had multiple pseudonyms and set up his own cult-like group known as the Church of Eternal Life. The South Korean media has portrayed Choi as a Rasputin-like figure who wielded an unhealthy influence over the president.
Once called the "Queen of Elections" for her ability to pull off wins for her party, Park is the daughter of slain military dictator Park Chung-hee. Her friendship with Choi dates to an era when Park served as acting first lady after her mother was killed by an assassin's bullet intended for her father, then-president Park Chung-hee. Five years later, in 1979, Park's father was murdered by his disgruntled spy chief.
(FRANCE 24 with REUTERS)