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South Korean prosecutors: President Park colluded for Samsung bribe

South Korean prosecutors: President Park colluded for Samsung bribe

The 65-year-old daughter of a former military strongman has had her powers suspended. The court is expected to hand down its decision sometime this month. No formal charges can be brought against her until she is either removed from office or her term ends as scheduled in late February of 2018.

Her removal from office would subject her to a fresh investigation by state prosecutors. Nor can Park be indicted while she still holds the presidency, although prosecutors have listed a total of 13 charges that they would like to press against her, including abuse of power and receiving bribes.

The report also implicates Park in the blacklisting of nearly 9,500 left-leaning artists considered critical of her administration, meaning they would not be given government grants for their work.

The special prosecutors recommended that the national pension fund, which is in charge of retirement savings for almost half of the 50 million population, should be free from any outside pressures even from the presidential office and government ministries.

These changes are all coming into effect after Samsung's Lee Jae-yong was charged with bribery following the impeachment of South Korean President, Park Geun-hye.

The president also installed Choi's associates into influential positions, including ambassador to Myanmar, where the confidante could make money, the report found.

Moon Hyung-pyo, former health and welfare minister in charge of the control of the national pension fund who is now in custody, said President Park ordered him in June 2015 to help Samsung merge the two units.

But Park, through her lawyer, again strongly denied any wrongdoing.

President Park had vowed to accept face-to-face interrogation from special prosecutors, but she rejected repeated calls for it.

Choi and Park are accused of conspiring to pressure big businesses to donate to two foundations established to support the president's policy initiatives.

South Korea's prosecutor's office said in a statement that it has asked the team of investigators which indicted Choi in November to take over and conduct the probe "according to law and principle without prejudice".

The independent counsel has now upped the stakes by charging that the W43 billion paid by Samsung directly or indirectly to Choi constituted a bribe in return for easing the illegal ascent to the conglomerate's leadership of Samsung scion Lee Jae-yong (US$1=W1,156).

If Lee is found guilty of hiding more than $5 million overseas, he could face at least 10 years in jail, special prosecutors have said.

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