South Korea’s former president Lee Myung-bak appeared on Wednesday for questioning by prosecutors over a slew of corruption allegations, which he claimed were political retaliation by the current liberal government.
Mr Lee, who has long been dogged by accusations of corruption, is the country’s fifth former president to face prosecution. He faces about 20 counts of corruption charges with some of his close aides already being arrested for bribery.
The widening investigation is a humiliating setback for the former conservative president, who has had a successful career as a businessman, mayor of Seoul and politician. But even before being elected as the country’s president in 2007, he had been plagued by suspicions over being involved in stock price manipulation and accumulating slush funds.
Prosecutors are reportedly looking into whether he has received illicit money from the state spy agency and whether he forced big conglomerates such as Samsung Electronics and Hyundai Motor to pay legal expenses of one of the companies allegedly owned by Mr Lee.
He said after arriving at the Seoul Central District Prosecutors’ Office that he is sorry for “causing concern to people with matters involving me. Hopefully, this will be the last in history.”
Nearly all of South Korea’s presidents came to a sad end one way or the other, with many of them convicted of corruption charges and later pardoned, highlighting pervasive corruption among the country’s political leaders.
Late last month, prosecutors demanded a 30-year prison sentence for Mr Lee’s successor, Park Geun-hye, for bribery, abuse of power and leaking state secrets in a case that ensnared a host of South Korea’s top political and business figures. A verdict for the impeached president is expected in late March or April.