South Korean prosecutors on Monday charged ousted president Park Geun-hye and Lotte Group chairman Shin Dong-bin with bribery in the latest twist to a corruption scandal that rocked the country for months.
She was impeached late a year ago and now stands accused of abuse of power, coercion, bribery and leaking government secrets, prosecutors said. Prosecutors argued conversely, stating that the "donations" were bribes used to sway government support during a 2015 merger of two Samsung affiliates. Choi and the company's top executive, Lee Jae-yong, were also under arrest and on trial.
Park was expelled from office on March 10, with less than a year remaining in her five-year term, in a unanimous decision by the Constitutional Court to finalize her parliamentary impeachment over the corruption scandal.
Former president of South Korea, Park Geun-hye, has been indicted.
An additional contribution of SK Group was also demanded by the Choi-controlled foundations, but the country's third-biggest family-run conglomerate refused to do so, helping Chairman Chey Tae-won escape indictment. Park has been questioned nearly half-a-dozen times for these charges since her detainment.
The National Assembly had voted in December to impeach her on charges of bribery, extortion and abuse of power.
Park's downfall and the presidential election in South Korea also have the potential to rattle the delicate balance of global diplomacy in Asia at a time of heightened tensions with North Korea. It is unclear if the trial will be under way before 9 May when a special election will be held to determine her successor.
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Prosecutors arrested Park on bribery and a dozen other criminal charges in March.
Park is also charged with abusing her authority to help Choi's business interests, exclude artists critical of Park from state budget and sack government officials uncooperative with her wrongdoings.
Prosecutors accused Park of colluding with Choi to receive 7 billion won ($6.16 million) from Lotte for favors, they said in a statement.
Park's scandal triggered huge political turmoil in South Korea, with millions taking to the streets to call for her ouster for months before her supporters launched their own protests.
Lotte denied allegations that it made improper deals with Park, or those linked to her, for favours, but said it would explain itself in court. One change was that Prosecutors increased the amount of bribes cited in Park's charges to 59.2 billion won from 43.3 billion won (US$38.2 million).
Park will stay in jail during her trial due to start in weeks from now that could last up to six months.