Corruption charges against ousted South Korean leader

Former President Park Geun-hye became the third South Korean president to stand trial on criminal charges extending to 18 including bribery.

"We have formally charged Park with multiple offenses, including abuse of power, coercion, bribery and leaking state secrets", prosecutors said after wrapping up the months-long investigation.

Prosecutors allege Park colluded with Choi to make Lotte's Shin give 7 billion won ($6.2 million) in bribes to a foundation Choi had set up.

Prosecutors argued conversely, stating that the "donations" were bribes used to sway government support during a 2015 merger of two Samsung affiliates. Samsung's de facto leader Lee Jae-yong is standing trial for offering or promising to offer bribes to Park and her friend Choi.

Park will remain in a Seoul prison and will be transported to and from the Seoul Central District Court [official website] for the entirety of her trial.

The prosecution, which also brought in SK Group Chairman Chey Tae-won for questioning, did not file charges against him. Park was impeached late previous year, officially stripped of power in March and has been in a detention facility near Seoul since being arrested last month on allegations that she colluded with a confidante to extort from businesses, take bribes and commit other wrongdoing.

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Park has denied all the charges. The Special Investigation Headquarters, which is led by Lee Yeong-ryeol, announced on April. 17 that it was indicting Park under detention on charges of bribery (a violation of the Act on the Aggravated Punishment, etc. of Specific Crimes) and abuse of power to obstruct the exercise of authority.

Prosecutors charged Park with conspiring with Choi and a presidential adviser to pressure 18 business groups to donate a total of 77.4 billion won ($68 million) for the launch of two non-profit foundations controlled by Choi.

Park and Choi were charged with collecting $38 million in bribes or promised bribes from Samsung.

Lotte denied allegations that it made improper deals with Park, or those linked to her, for favours, but said it would explain itself in court.

In March a year ago, Chairman Shin met face-to-face with Park and his conglomerate regained its lost license to run duty-free shops in downtown Seoul. 29 into government interference during the Park Geun-hye administration, which came just as campaigning for the May 9 presidential election officially began the same day.

Prosecutors and an independent counsel indicted no fewer than 42 suspects in the scandal, including Choi and former Park aides An Chong-bum and Kim Ki-choon, whose trial has been going on for months already.

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