South Korea prosecutor: President colluded to take Samsung bribes

Special prosecutor Park Young-soo said in a statement Monday the bribes President Park Geun-hye and her friend Choi Soon-sill extracted from Samsung chief Lee Jae-yong are a symbol of a "chronic cycle of corruption in our society" and were aimed at insuring that Lee remained at Samsung's helm.

The findings of the 70-day probe directly accuse the impeached Park of wrongdoing on several charges, including the bribery conspiracy implicating Samsung.

Park, 65, has had her powers suspended since her impeachment by parliament in December. The court is expected to hand down its decision sometime in March.

South Korean law does not allow a sitting president to be indicted. Korea's constitution stipulates that presidents can not be indicted while serving, so a formal indictment would be delayed until the end of her term next February, unless the court ends her term early.

State prosecutors will start a new investigation once President Park Geun-hye is out of the presidential office.

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Special prosecutor Park Young-soo told journalists on Monday that bribery charges related to the president have been transferred to the prosecutors.

The special prosecutor also said the president was instrumental in blacklisting more than 9,000 artists, authors and movie industry professionals and excluding them from government assistance that constituted an abuse of power.

The special prosecutors recommended that the national pension fund, which is in charge of retirement savings for almost half of the 50 million population, should be free from any outside pressures even from the presidential office and government ministries.

Park denied knowing anything about Choi's efforts to extort money from Samsung or to win business favors for Samsung, the statement continued.

The two women became close through Choi's father, a shady religious figure who was Park's mentor for years.

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Lawyer Yoo said Park has no knowledge of a contract between Samsung and Choi and that she was not involved in creating or managing the alleged blacklist.

The Samsung group also denied the charge, saying, "Future court proceedings will reveal the truth".

Samsung, however, has claimed that there was no quid pro quo in the donations to two foundations controlled by Choi as well as no pressure on the national pension fund into supporting the 2015 merger.

Lee and four other senior Samsung executives were indicted last week on charges including embezzlement and bribery.

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