Another ex-S. Korean leader questioned in corruption probe


Former President Lee Myung-bak was grilled by prosecutors on Wednesday over a string of corruption allegations including bribery, embezzlement and abuse of power.

Lee claims to be the victim of a witch hunt, but prosecutors have about 120 pages of questions for him about what they believe was a systematic program to squirrel away slush funds and amass bribes.

He said he has many things to say as a former president but said he's determined to "save his breath". Before entering the prosecution building, the former president stopped in front of hundreds of press members to deliver a brief message to the nation.

Wednesday's interrogation of Lee comes 358 days after ousted President Park appeared at the prosecution's office to be questioned on March 21 a year ago. "I offer my honest apology to the people of our country for troubling them amid the economic hardship and a serious security crisis on the peninsula".

Lee's brother is the largest shareholder in DAS, but prosecutors believe Lee actually owns the company.

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Samsung reportedly paid six billion won ($5.6 million) in legal fees to a U.S. law firm on the former president's behalf.

Lee reportedly denied the allegations during the morning interrogation session before breaking for lunch at 1:10 p.m.

Lee is expected to return home after the questioning, but prosecutors are thought likely to then ask a court for an arrest warrant.

The prosecution office and police beefed up security around the perimeter to prevent any possible clash.

The ex-president rose to political power after a successful career as chief executive of Hyundai Engineering & Construction Co.

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The move came about two weeks after prosecutors demanded a 30-year prison term for Lee's conservative successor, Park Geun-hye, over a separate bribery scandal that led to weeks of massive anti-government protests.

The investigation into Lee means all living former South Korean presidents have been convicted, charged, or embroiled in criminal inquiries.

Park's successors Chun Doo-hwan and Roh Tae-woo, both former army generals, spent time in jail after leaving office for bribery, treason and other charges.

Lee has said in January that investigations into alleged corruption in his administration are political payback to hold him accountable for the suicide of his predecessor, Roh Moo-hyun.

Prosecutors on Wednesday questioned South Korea's conservative former President Lee Myung-bak over corruption allegations, making him the latest of the country's leaders entangled in scandal.

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