A Seoul court has sentenced Choi Soon-sil, a central figure in the influence-peddling scandal that ousted ex-President Park Geun-hye, to 20 years in prison with a fine of 18 billion won. The sentence is less than the 25 years sought by prosecutors but the heaviest handed down so far for figures involved in the scandal.
The Seoul Central District Court issued the verdict on Tuesday. Choi was found guilty of most of the 18 charges against her, including bribery, abuse of power and coercion.
Park’s former senior presidential secretary, An Chong-bum, who also stood trial on Tuesday, received a six-year prison sentence and fine of 100 million won for accepting bribes and for his involvement in Choi's influence-peddling.
The court also sentenced Lotte Group Chairman Shin Dong-bin, who faced bribery charges, to two-and-a-half-years in prison with a penalty of seven billion won. He was accused of donating that amount to Choi's foundations in return for favors regarding Lotte's duty free business.
The Seoul court assessed that Choi colluded with Park to coerce companies to pay donations to the Mir and K-Sports foundations which were controlled by Choi.
On charges that Choi received or was promised some 43 billion won from Samsung Electronics Vice Chairman Lee Jae-yong, the court recognized seven-point-three billion won of that amount as bribery.
However, the judges decided that Samsung's contributions to Choi's foundations were not bribes. The court did not accept the prosecution's claim that Samsung offered the money in return for Lee's takeover of the company from his ill father Lee Kun-hee.