Top Office Remains Silent on Ex-Pres. Lee's Questioning by Prosecutors

Ex-S. Korean president Lee questioned in graft probe

Former South Korean President Lee Myung-bak is being investigated for allegedly accepting millions of dollars' worth of bribes.

Lee faces nearly 20 charges and the prosecution believe he took around 11 billion won unlawfully from a number of institutions and individuals including the country's National Intelligence Service and Samsung Group.

The conservative Lee, who served as president from 2008 to 2013, publicly apologized when he arrived at the Seoul Central District Office for questioning.

Denying all accusations, Lee has denounced the investigation as political retaliation by the current administration of liberal President Moon Jae-in.

The allegations include claims that the 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. "All I wish for is that this will be the last time in history" that a former president is being investigated.

Former conservative President Park Geun-hye, Lee's successor, was removed from office past year for an influence-peddling scandal involving her longtime friend Choi Soon-sil.

Lee, accompanied by his defence lawyer, was received by a senior prosecutor and given tea before being ushered into room 1001, where Park underwent a marathon 21.5 hour questioning previous year. She is now standing trial, with prosecutors requesting 30 years in jail.

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Lee was reportedly being questioned at the same room of the prosecution office as the one for Park a year ago, on allegations that he had received tens of millions of US dollars in bribes from the country's intelligence agency and big companies including Samsung Electronics.

Some $5.5 million from Samsung Electronics allegedly funded retainer fees and lawsuit proceedings for an auto part company called DAS, which Lee has always been suspected of owning and using to hide his assets.

The firm is also under investigation for creating a secret slush fund of at least $9 million, which Lee is believed to have controlled.

Wednesday's interrogation of Lee comes 358 days after ousted President Park appeared at the prosecution's office to be questioned on March 21 previous year.

Lee denied owning DAS under questioning Wednesday, a prosecution official told Yonhap news agency. The prosecutors have prepared about 120 pages of questions, and Lee is expected to spend hours for the interrogation.

The investigation comes five years after Lee left office, making him the fifth former president to be interrogated by prosecutors.

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