Choi Soon-sil, a friend of former South Korean president, Park Guen-hye, has been sentenced to 20 year in jail for corruption, influence -peddling and abuse of power. She was accused of exploiting her ties with the former president and forcing 50 business conglomerates to pay a combined 77.4 billion won to two nonprofit foundations she controlled.
Choi Soon-sil was found guilty of abuse of power, bribery and meddling in state affairs by the Seoul Central District Court, and judge Kim Se-yoon said: "The accused is sentenced to 20 years in prison".
It said she was so shocked by prosecutors' requested sentence that she asked for a break and sat in a wheelchair in court afterward.
The heavy sentence handed down to Choi Soon-sil bodes ill for Park, who is still on trial and is facing nearly exactly the same charges.
It should be noted that Choi has a close relation with Park during her term.
The disgraced ex-leader is also standing trial over the scandal, but has refused to show up in court in protest of the extension of her detention, claiming she is being made a target of "political revenge".
Choi Soon-sil (L), Park Geun-hye's longtime friend and confidante; An Chong-bum (C), Park's former senior aide; and Lotte Group chairman Shin Dong-bin are shown in this composite photo on February 13, 2018 as they enter the Seoul Central District Court to attend their sentencing over the corruption that led to Park's ousting. Lotte has interests in retail, confectionary and many other businesses.
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She was convicted of bribing South Korean conglomerates including Samsung, in a scandal that triggered chaos among the country's political and business elite.
In a text message, Lotte said it was "miserable" that its chief had been unexpectedly jailed, leaving a leadership vacuum. Shin had pleaded not guilty.
The then senior economic secretary to Park was given six years in prison yesterday for blackmailing conglomerates into making contributions to two foundations run by Choi.
Independent counsel Park Young-soo and state prosecutors claimed that Choi received, or promised to receive, 43.3 billion won (39.9 million US dollars) from the Samsung heir who was released from prison after the appeals court's ruling last week. Her daughter's equestrian training overseas was scrutinized and questions were raised about whether Samsung's purchase of expensive horses for her daughter constituted bribery.
Choi's sentencing, not open to the public, could provide hints about the sentencing of Park Geun-hye, which is scheduled for late March.
An was fined 100 million won (92,225 USA dollars) for taking bribes.
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