South Korea's former communications chief and one of the closest confidants of President Lee Myung-bak was sentenced on Friday to 30 months in jail and ordered to pay 600 million won ($536,834) in fines for accepting bribes from a local construction company in return for favor.
Choi See-joong, 75, was arrested and indicted in May on charges of taking 800 million won in bribes from property developer Pi City through a broker on 13 occasions during 2006-2008.
Prosecutors sought three-and-a-half years' jail and 800 million won in fines for him, noting the money he accepted was "in exchange for favors in a construction project."
Choi admitted to receiving part of the money, but denied the allegations that he exerted any influence on the construction project, South Korean media reported.
"It is hard to accept Choi's claim that the 600 million won he received from broker Lee Dong-ryul was not related to any favors for the construction project," said chief judge Jeong Seon-jae of the Seoul Central District Court. Choi, however, was acquitted of the charges that he received an additional 200 million won from the broker on lack of evidence.
Choi has sought bail citing his health problems, but the court dismissed the application because of concerns he may flee and destroy evidence.
Choi stepped down as chief of the state-run Korea Communications Commission in January, after one of his close aides was accused of receiving large amounts of money in bribes.
His case was one of a series of high-profile graft scandals that implicated an elder brother of President Lee and several of his close aides. Earlier this week, the ruling Saenuri Party vowed to set up an independent body to conduct special inspections on the Presidents' family members, and other powerful figures, as part of efforts to root out corruption.
by RTT Staff Writer
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