South Korea’s ex-president Lee Myung Bak arrested on graft charges

Former South Korean President Lee Myung-bak speaks to the nation during a news conference at the presidential house in Seoul November 29, 2010. Lee on Monday labelled North Korea's artillery attack on a southern island a crime against humanity and said Pyongyang will pay the price for any further provocation. REUTERS/Ahn Young-joon/Pool (SOUTH KOREA - Tags: POLITICS CIVIL UNREST)

A grim-faced Lee Myung-Bak was driven away from his home in southern Seoul for a detention facility late Thursday, becoming the fourth former South Korean president to be arrested on corruption charges.

The district court in the South Korean capital approved a warrant for Myung-Bak’s arrest earlier in the day on the grounds that the 76-year-old former conservative leader could destroy evidence against him, according to local broadcasters.

Mr. Myung-Bak was driven in a black saloon by prosecution authorities to the Seoul Eastern Detention Centre, where he was assigned to a solitary cell, Yonhap news agency reported.

He faces least 12 charges, including bribery, embezzlement, tax evasion, abuse of power and breach of trust, the report added.

“I feel that this is all my fault, and I feel a sense of guilt,’’ Mr. Myung-Bak wrote in a handwritten note posted late Thursday on Facebook.

During his time in office – from 2008 to 2013 – Mr. Myung-Bak is suspected of taking money from the secret service, companies and other organisations to the tune of 11 billion won (10.2 million dollars).

Mr. Myung-Bak is also suspected of using a car parts supplier operated under the name of his elder brother as an illicit secret fund to misappropriate 34.8 billion won for political activities and personal use, according to Yonhap.

If convicted of all charges, he faces up to 45 years in prison, according to Yonhap.

State prosecutors requested the arrest warrant on Monday following five months of investigations that also focused on Myung-Bak’s family and aides.

Mr. Myung-Bak was questioned for 21 hours on March 14 and 15 before being allowed to return home.

He has called the investigations “political revenge” by the current left-leaning socially liberal government.

Park Hye, who succeeded Myung-Bak as president but was impeached in March, is also currently facing charges of corruption.

She is in detention awaiting trial, with a verdict expected in April.

Former president Chun Doo-Hwan and his successor Roh Tae-Woo were sentenced to death in 1996 for rebellion and high treason.

Both were fined heavily for corruption in office. The two were pardoned in 1997 and are still alive.


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