Blue House to jail house: South Korea's criminal presidents

Ex-S. Korean president Lee questioned in graft probe

Ex-S. Korean president Lee questioned in graft probe

After investigating a number of close figures, Korea's state prosecutors are finally closing in on former president Lee Myung-bak - who stands at the center of a string of corruption allegations. Former South Korean president Lee Myung-bak reported to prosecutors for questioning in a corruption probe on March 14 and apologised for the controversy.

Prosecutors have prepared about 120 pages of questions for the former president, as they strongly suspect he is the main culprit behind a web of bribery and embezzlement charges involving his former presidential secretaries, state officials and family members.

Former conservative President Park Geun-hye, Lee's successor, was removed from office a year ago for an influence-peddling scandal involving her longtime friend Choi Soon-sil. Lee is the fifth former president to be interrogated by state prosecutors.

The agency allegedly funneled money from a secret fund to Lee through his aides.

He said he has many things to say as a former president but said he's determined to "save his breath". "I offer my deepest apology to the people for causing worry amid times when the economy is in hardship and the situation surrounding the Korean peninsula is serious", Lee said.

According to the Realmeter poll earlier this month, seven out of 10 South Koreans said Lee should be arrested for a criminal investigation.

During the interrogation, the prosecutors also asked Lee whether his son-in-law, an executive at Samsung Electronics Co., delivered bribes to Lee's wife, Kim Yoon-ok, but Lee reportedly denied the involvement of the former first lady.

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Wednesday's interrogation of Lee comes 358 days after ousted President Park appeared at the prosecution's office to be questioned on March 21 a year ago.

Samsung reportedly paid six billion won ($5.6 million) in legal fees to a U.S. law firm on the former president's behalf.

The 76-year-old is largely expected to claim the company belongs to his eldest brother Lee Sang-eun and claim innocence on other charges.

Prosecutors believe the payment by Samsung is an indication that Lee is the real owner of DAS, as the tech giant had no reason to do so unless it was seeking some influence for its business interest.

Before he entered the prosecutors' office, Lee announced to reporters that he is in a "position of bad discomfort today".

Lee has said in January that investigations into alleged corruption in his administration are political payback to hold him accountable for the suicide of his predecessor, Roh Moo-hyun.

Chun Doo-hwan, a former army general who ruled from 1980 to 1988, served prison time in the 1990s for charges including treason and bribery.

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