Former South Korean President Lee Myung-bak (Yonhap)
The Supreme Court on Thursday upheld a 17-year prison sentence handed down by an appeals court for former President Lee Myung-bak on embezzlement and bribery charges.
In February, the Seoul High Court sentenced the 78-year-old to 17 years in prison, a fine of 13 billion won ($10.9 million) and a forfeit of 5.7 billion won in a high-profile corruption case.
The former president, who governed the country from 2008-2013, was charged in April 2018 with 16 counts of criminal allegations, including embezzlement in connection with the auto parts company DAS and receiving bribes from various companies and individuals, including Samsung Electronics Co.
In October that year, a district court found him guilty or partly guilty of seven accounts, and sentenced him to 15 years in prison, making him the fourth ex-South Korean leader to be criminally convicted.
It also concluded that Lee was the de facto owner of DAS, an allegation Lee has consistently denied.
An appeals court in February handed down a longer prison term of 17 years due to the increased amount of graft that Lee was found guilty of.
The court ruled that Lee embezzled 25.2 billion won from DAS, which it also concluded that Lee effectively owned, and convicted him of accepting bribes totaling 9.4 billion won, around 800 million won more than previously ruled.
The court found that Lee used his presidential power to benefit DAS and himself. Throughout Lee's political career, he was dogged by suspicions over whether he is the real owner of DAS.
Lee will be imprisoned again, as the highest court said that the lower court's February injunction to allow him out of jail became invalid.
The prosecution is allowing the former president time to prepare for his upcoming imprisonment. Lee is scheduled to be detained in Seoul Dongbu Detention Center on Monday, before being incarcerated again. His term will be 16 years, as he already served about one year behind bars.
Later in the afternoon, Lee issued a statement strongly denouncing the court's decision as "unfair," and claiming that "the truth will eventually come out." (Yonhap)