A South Korean court on Friday tacked on another eight years to former President Park Geun-hye’s sentence for illegally receiving funds from a state agency and breaking election laws.
Park, who was the country’s first female president, was already serving 24 years in prison for corruption — bribery, abuse of power and leaking state secrets — that led to her impeachment in December 2016. The new round of penalties apply consecutively, which mean that Park, who’s 66 years old, faces a 32-year prison term.
The Seoul Central District Court found Park guilty of wrongfully diverting more than 3 billion won — over $26 million — from a handful of former spy agency directors at the National Intelligence Service, Reuters reported.
“Through this crime, the accused incurred a considerable amount of loss to the state treasury,” senior judge Seong Chang-ho said, according to Reuters.
Agence France Presse reported:
“Park allegedly squandered the taxpayer money on maintaining her private house, financing a boutique where her secret confidante Choi Soon-sil – the central figure in the corruption scandal – had Park’s clothes made and other private purposes, including massage treatment.”
But Park was acquitted of bribery charges in relation to the money transfers because the court not determine whether the intelligence chiefs received favors in exchange, the Associated Press reported.
According to the AP, two of the NIS directors who siphoned off money from the agency were sentenced to three-and-a-half years in prison last month. The third received three years.
The court also fined the disgraced former leader 3.3 billion won ($2.91 million), Yonhap News Agency reported.
The court also ruled Park had interfered in the 2016 parliamentary elections by attempting to manipulate her party’s candidate nominations. The AP reported it was an effort to bolster the number of Park loyalists as divisions within the conservative party became increasingly entrenched.
The sentence was issued in Park’s absence. She has denied all wrongdoing and has refused to attend the court proceedings, calling them “politically motivated.”
As NPR’s Elise Hu reported Park’s authority began to unravel in the fall of 2016 after revelations that she had abused her executive powers by turning high-level responsibilities over to her close confidant, Choi:
“Choi, who had no official government position, was editing national policy documents and making behind-the-scenes decisions for the president led to street protests in which hundreds of thousands of Koreans called for Park’s resignation. When Park defiantly stayed in office, lawmakers impeached her in December 2016 and a court removed her in March of last year.”
It is possible Park’s cumulative jail sentence could change, the AP reported. Prosecutors are appealing the 24-year-long prison term on the previous conviction, arguing it is too lenient. They are calling for a punishment of 30 years.
Meanwhile, AFP reported, “Park’s own lawyers asked for her conviction to be overturned, saying she made no gains herself when businesses ‘donated’ funds to foundations controlled by Choi, and that her impeachment and ouster meant she had already taken ‘political responsibility’ for the case.”
The Seoul High Court is expected to rule on pending issues in the case on Aug. 24.