South Korea’s ex-president admits taking money from NIS

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Former South Korean president Lee Myung-bak. Reuters

SEOUL (AFP) – Former South Korean president Lee Myung-bak has admitted receiving $100,000 in 2011 from the state spy agency while still in office, reports said yesterday, after a marathon interrogation by prosecutors over corruption allegations.

Mr Lee spent more than 21 hours at the prosecutor’s office in Seoul since Wednesday.

He denied most corruption charges but admitted taking the off-book funds from the National Intelligence Service (NIS) via a presidential aide, Yonhap news agency said.

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Allegations of graft involving the 76-year-old’s relatives and aides during his term have mounted in recent weeks as prosecutors investigate multiple cases of bribery amounting to millions of dollars.

“President Lee denied most of the charges,” the prosecutor was quoted as saying by Yonhap news agency. “But he accepted some facts. For example, he acknowledges the fact that he received $100,000 (106 million won) of the (1.7 billion won of secret) funds from the NIS.”

Mr Lee refused to explain what he did with the $100,000.

The allegations against Mr Lee include claims that Samsung Group bought a presidential pardon in 2009 for its chairman Lee Kun-hee, who had been convicted of tax evasion and given a suspended jail sentence. Both parties denied the allegations.

According to reports, Mr Lee is also accused of accepting 2.2 billion won from a former CEO of a state-financed banking group for helping him assume the post.

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He is also accused of receiving 400 million won in bribes from a lawmaker and embezzling millions of dollars from DAS, an auto parts company he is said to own under the names of his relatives. He denied owning DAS on Wednesday.

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