Friend of former South Korea leader jailed for 20 years

Friend of former South Korea leader jailed for 20 years

But the appeals court last week said Lee's bribe-giving was a "passive compliance to political power", hinting at a wrongdoing on the part of Park and Choi. Choi's lawyer said the court's decision is too harsh and she would file an appeal.

"Choi abused power based on her personal relationship with the president by pressuring conglomerates to donate to foundations".

The court convicted Choi Soon Sil of abuse of power, bribery and other crimes and imposed an 18 billion won ($17 million) fine on her.

Choi was largely unknown to the South Korean public until a series of revelations in late 2016 disclosed how she allegedly pulled government strings from the shadows, editing presidential speeches and wielding influence over government personnel even though she held no official government position.

She had shown no repentance, the judge added. Shin was sentenced to two years in prison. "She is also responsible for meddling in national affairs, which led to the ouster of the president", said Judge Kim Se-yoon.

Also on Tuesday, billionaire businessman Shin Dong-bin, chairman of conglomerate Lotte, was sentenced to 2.5 years in jail on related bribery charges.

Shin's arrest creates a leadership vacuum at Lotte, a retail-to-chemicals giant with 110.8 trillion won ($102 billion) worth of assets, as it navigates mounting losses at its China operations. She also said that she only wanted to help Park with his work and never thought of pursuing any personal benefits from it. Choi was said to be very calm during her sentencing. "This is a heavy sentence bordering on cruelty", he told local reporters.

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"We admit we have failed to convince the court judges that the accused Choi is not guilty". He can appeal the ruling with the Seoul High Court.

The trials of the country's ex president and her close associate have gripped South Korea and roiled the country's political and business elite.

The South Korean economy is dominated by giant family-controlled firms known as "chaebol", which powered a decades-long economic boom but have long had murky ties with authorities.

The billionaire was convicted in August past year of bribing Park with $8.2m in return for government backing of a business merger.

Choi Soon-sil, a confidante of Park, was convicted of receiving bribes from South Korean conglomerates including Samsung, the world's biggest maker of smartphones and semiconductors, and the Lotte Group.

The court, however, said there was no proof beyond a reasonable doubt that Samsung was pursuing a process of management control succession. Her removal from office followed months of public outcry over a wave of corruption allegations.She was accused of being unduly influenced by Choi.

"Twenty years for a white-collar crime is exceptional and it is hard to see the sentence being reduced on appeal, because the court is so obviously conscious of public outrage that someone had to be held responsible", said Brendon Carr, a senior foreign legal consultant at Seoul law firm Hwang, Hong and Co.

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