An arrest warrant has been issued for South Korea’s former President Lee Myung-bak on corruption allegations, the latest former leader of the country to face prosecutors over alleged graft.
Lee, 77, is accused of bribery, embezzlement, tax evasion and other charges, including allegedly accepting $10.2m from South Korea’s spy agency and major corporations, Yonhap news agency reported on Thursday.
South Korea’s president from 2008 to 2013, Lee denied all charges and called the investigation “political revenge” by the current government of President Moon Jae-in.
If convicted of all charges, he faces up to 45 years in prison, Yonhap said.
The conservative main opposition Liberty Korea Party called Lee’s arrest “mortifying and cruel”.
“Should living as a former president in this country be this difficult?” said Chang Je-won, the party’s spokesman. “We hope that Lee’s [arrest] will mark an end to political reprisals.”
All four former South Korean presidents who are still alive have been convicted, charged or investigated for criminal offences.
South Korea’s previous President Park Geun-hye, 66, was charged a year ago with bribery, coercion, and abuse of power, among other offences. Prosecutors are seeking a 30-year prison sentence, and a verdict is expected in the coming weeks.
President Moon has embarked on an anti-corruption crackdown since he took office in May 2017, following Park’s impeachment.
Kim Hyung-joon, a professor at Myongji University in Seoul, told Al Jazeera that public pressure was forcing politicians to act against corruption by South Korean leaders.
“Mechanisms should be built to check the president’s absolute power reasonably and efficiently. I think it will improve one by one,” said Kim.
With the decision by the Seoul Central District Court, prosecutors can immediately detain Lee for up to 20 days before formally charging him.