South Korea’s Supreme Court on Thursday upheld a 17-year prison sentence for corruption charges imposed on former president Lee Myung-bak.
The 78-year-old conservative leader, who was head of state from 2008 to 2013, had been out on bail pending his appeal to the country’s highest court. He was not present in the Supreme Court at the time of the ruling and, according to South Korean media, police went to his home to take him back into custody.
Mr Lee, who no longer has any further legal recourse, risks spending the rest of his life in prison, unless he obtains a presidential pardon.
South Korean heads of state often land in jail once they leave office, usually after another political party takes over. The four former presidents who are still alive were each convicted.
Mr Lee had been found guilty of corruption in 2018 by the Seoul Central District Court, which sentenced him to 15 years in prison and a fine of 13 billion won (10 million euros).
In February, an appellate court increased his sentence to 17 years, but he remained free on bail pending the decision of the country’s highest court.
On Thursday, the Supreme Court upheld the sentence, finding that the ex-president had misappropriated 25.2 billion won, and received 9.4 billion won in bribes.
The Court said in a statement that there was no legal error in the conviction by the appeal court for corruption and embezzlement.
The ex-president, who entered politics after a long career at Hyundai, was found guilty of accepting bribes from the Samsung group to give his presidential blessing to the former head of the South Korean giant, Lee Kun-hee, who had been convicted for tax evasion. Lee Kun-hee passed away on Sunday.
The former president had also been legally recognised as the real owner of DAS, a car parts company which, he said, belonged to his brother, and through which he reportedly siphoned off dozens of billions of won.