South Korea’s Park ‘took money from spy agency’, reports say

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SEOUL (AFP) – Ousted South Korean president Park Geun-hye was charged yesterday with accepting millions of dollars worth of bribes from the state spy agency, news reports said.

Ms Park allegedly received between 50 and 200 million won (now $47,000 to $188,000) from the National Intelligence Service (NIS) every month from early 2013 – soon after her swearing-in – until mid-2016, prosecutors told South Korean media.

The cash – said to total 3.65 billion won ($3.4 million) – was reportedly delivered by NIS agents to Ms Park’s aides in uncrowded parking lots or in back alleys near the presidential Blue House.

The money came from the spy agency’s “blind budget” – millions of dollars of special funds that can be spent without receipts for anti-espionage activities – Yonhap news agency said.

Ms Park is said to have spent much of the funds for personal purposes, including Botox injections, clothes and illicit mobile phones used by her friends, including close confidante Choi Soon-sil.

Prosecutors have demanded 25 years in prison for Ms Choi, charged with colluding with Ms Park to extort millions of dollars from conglomerates.

Ms Park is already on trial on 18 charges including bribery, coercion and abuse of power for offering governmental favours to tycoons.

Prosecutors will add two more counts – bribery and embezzlement – to the indictment regarding the payments, reports said.

South Korea’s first female president was impeached by parliament after months of mass protests over a sprawling graft scandal, and the constitutional court upheld the decision in March last year, dismissing her from office. She has been in custody since March 31.

Her trial began in May but she has refused to attend since October.

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