Choi Soon-sil was accused of using her presidential connections to pressure conglomerates – including electronics giant Samsung and retail group Lotte – for millions of dollars in donations to two non-profit foundations she controlled.
She is already serving a three year jail term for a separate charge of corruption, after she was found guilty of using her position to solicit favors for her daughter.
Park Geun-hye meanwhile has been accused of colluding with Choi Soon-sil. She is currently in custody, with a verdict expected later this year.
The court has also found Shin Dong-bin, chairman of the Lotte Group, guilty of offering bribes to Choi Soon-sil, and jailed him for two years and six months.
President Park Geun-hye was officially ousted in March 2017, following parliament’s decision to impeach her. She was the country’s first democratically-elected president to be forced from office.
After losing her presidential immunity, Park Geun-hye was charged with bribery, abusing state power and leaking state secrets, and her trial began in May.
Lee Jae-yong was accused of giving donations worth 41 billion won ($36 million) to non-profit foundations operated by Choi Soon-sil, a friend of South Korea’s former President Park Geun-hye, in return for political favors.
Prosecutors said the donations were made to Park Geun-hye’s confidante to win government support for a big restructuring of Samsung that would strengthen Lee Jae-yong’s control over Samsung Electronics.
A lawyer for Lee Jae-yonghas said already said they will appeal against the decision.
“We are confident the ruling will be overturned,” lawyer Song Wu-cheol told reporters after the ruling, according to Reuters.
Nevertheless this ruling represents a huge blow to South Korea’s biggest and most well-known business empire. Since the verdict, Samsung shares fell by 1%.
Lee Jae-yong’s conviction raises questions about his leadership of the conglomerate. He has been standing in as chairman since his father, Lee Kun-hee, suffered a heart attack in 2014.
The Samsung scandal contributed to President Park Geun-hye’s eventual impeachment. Park Geun-hye’s friend, Choi Soon-sil, has already been jailed for three years for corruption.
South Koreans protesters dressed as Santa Claus have marched through the streets of Seoul calling for the immediate removal of President Park Geun-hye.
The festive protest marks the ninth week of rallies against the South Korean president.
Earlier this month South Korea’s parliament has voted to impeach Park Geun-hye over a corruption scandal, but that decision has to be confirmed by the country’s constitutional court.
Tens of thousands of demonstrators demand the president to resign at once.
Organizers say more than 550,000 people joined the ranks marching towards the presidential Blue House, the prime minister’s office and the constitutional court. Police figures were not available.
The crowd chanted “Arrest Park immediately!” and sang along to Christmas songs whose lyrics they had changed to mock the president.
Between 200 and 300 young people in Santa outfits handed out books and Christmas cards to children at the demonstration, chanting: “Gifts to children and handcuffs to Park!”
The scandal which has engulfed President Park Geun-hye centers on her relationship with long-time friend Choi Soon-sil, who faces charges of coercion and abuse of power.
It is alleged that after Park Geun-hye became president in 2013, Choi Soon-sil, 60, used their friendship to pressure top companies into donating to foundations she controlled, and then siphoned off funds for her own gain.
Prosecutors are also investigating new allegations that Choi Soon-sil sent dubious assets worth hundreds of millions of dollars overseas.
Park Geun-hye’s one-time ally has been in custody since October, and was brought to a special prosecutors’ office to be questioned on December 24.
A spokesman for the special prosecutor told reporters: “We will question her to confirm her earlier statements and investigate other allegations.”
President Park Geun-hye has been suspended from her duties since the impeachment vote on December 9, but insists she will wait “calmly” until the constitutional court delivers its decision.
If the constitutional court confirms her impeachment, Park Geun-hye will be permanently removed from office, and elections will be held within 60 days.
South Korea is seeing what is thought to be the largest protests so far demanding President Park Geun-hye steps down.
Park Geun-hye is accused of allowing her friend, Choi Soon-sil, to manipulate power from behind the scenes.
She has apologized twice on national TV, but has so far resisted calls to resign.
Image source Wikimedia
According to protest organizers, 1.3 million people had gathered Seoul on November 26, despite cold weather and snow.
They expect another half a million protesters to turn out in other regions.
However, police put the turnout at about 260,000. About 25,000 officers were being deployed in the capital, local media said.
The protests, which began five weeks ago, are the largest in South Korea since pro-democracy demonstrations of the 1980s.
Those attending on November 26 came from a cross-section of South Korean society, with farmers, Buddhist monks and university students all involved.
Park Geun-hye, whose approval rating has dropped to 5%, apologized earlier this month for putting “too much faith in a personal relationship”, and has pledged to co-operate in an official investigation into the scandal.
South Korea’s constitution does not allow a sitting president to be prosecuted, and Park Geun-hye has 15 months left in her term.
Now that prosecutors have directly linked Park Geun-hye to the scandal, it is possible she could be impeached for breaking the law.
Prosecutors are expected to bring charges against Choi Soon-sil, along with two former presidential aides. She was arrested earlier this month.
Choi Soon-sil is accused of trying to extort huge sums of money from South Korean companies, and suspected of using her friendship with President Park Geun-hye to solicit business donations for a non-profit fund she controlled.
Choi Soon-sil, who is at the center of a political scandal threatening South Korean President Park Geun-hye, has been detained.
The woman, a long-time friend of President Park Geun-hye, is accused of influence peddling and interfering in state affairs.
Prosecutors have 48 hours since Choi Soon-sil’s detention on October 31 to decide if they will formally arrest her.
Yesterday, eight banks were raided in connection with the scandal, South Korean media reported.
The Yonhap news agency said the authorities were looking to confiscate documents related to Choi Soon-sil’s financial transactions.
Image source Getty Images
She has been accused of embezzling money and of pressuring companies to donate to foundations she benefitted from, on the basis of her closeness to the president.
Choi Soon-sil also stands accused of involvement in high-level presidential decision making, despite lacking the security clearance required to handle classified documents.
She was placed under emergency detention on October 31 with prosecutors saying they feared she may destroy evidence.
“She has fled overseas in the past, and she doesn’t have a permanent address in Korea, making her a flight risk,” a prosecution official told Yonhap.
“She is also in an extremely unstable psychological state.”
Choi Soon-sil had told reporters on October 31 that she “committed a sin that deserves death”.
On November 1, a 45-year-old man who said he wanted to “help Choi Soon-sil die” drove a construction vehicle into the Seoul Central District Prosecutors’ office.
Choi Soon-sil was not inside the building, but a security guard was injured in the attack and the building was damaged.
Last week, President Park Geun-hye publicly apologized, admitting “certain documents” had been shared with Choi Soon-sil and she had been allowed to edit political speeches.
“Choi advised me on expressions in my speeches and public relations during the last presidential campaign and she continued to help me for a certain period of time after I took office,” Park Geun-hye said.
“I deeply apologize to the people,” she said, before bowing to the camera.
That did little to suppress public anger and about 8,000 people protested on October 29, some calling for Park Geun-hye’s resignation.