President Park Arrested in Corruption Scandal, Transferred to Detention Center in Wee Hours of Morning
SEOUL, March 31 (Yonhap) -- Former President Park Geun-hye was arrested on Friday in connection with a corruption scandal that led to her removal from office.
The Seoul Central District Court issued a warrant to detain Park on charges of bribery, abuse of authority, coercion and leaking government secrets, after a marathon hearing the previous day.
"The need for her arrest is acknowledged because there is probable cause to charge her and a concern of evidence being destroyed," Judge Kang Boo-young said.
Park, ousted in a historic ruling on March 10, became the country's third former president to be arrested over criminal allegations, following Roh Tae-woo and Chun Doo-hwan.
Following the decision, Park was transferred to a detention center south of Seoul from the prosecution's office where she had been waiting for the result after the nearly nine-hour court hearing.
The detention center is where key figures embroiled in the scandal, including Park's longtime friend Choi Soon-sil and Samsung's de facto leader Lee Jae-yong, are held in custody.
The arrest warrant is valid for 20 days since execution. State prosecutors are expected to level formal charges against Park by mid-April before the period expires.
The former president declined to comment on any of the questions asked by reporters as she left the courthouse at 7:30 p.m. Park also remained silent when she arrived at the court in the morning.'
Prosecutors suspect Park colluded with Choi to force dozens of local conglomerates to "donate" a total of 77.4 billion won (US$70 million) to two dubious foundations -- Mir and K-Sports -- allegedly controlled by Choi.
Samsung's de facto leader, Lee Jae-yong, was arrested for giving or promising some 43.4 billion won to Choi, and in effect to Park, as kickbacks in return for business favors. Of the total, 20.4 billion won went to the two foundations.
If convicted of the bribery charges, Park could be sentenced to 10 years or more in prison.
Park is also accused of involvement in blacklisting cultural figures deemed critical of her policies and prohibiting government agencies from providing financial support to them. Her former close aides were arrested for their roles in creating and managing the list of more than 9,000 artists, writers, filmmakers and entertainment figures.
Prosecutors suspect that the former president abused her power by pressuring her aides to sack culture ministry officials who resisted discriminatory measures against those on the blacklist.
She is also accused of unlawfully intervening in the corporate management of conglomerates, including Hyundai Motor, POSCO and KT, by pressuring them into signing contracts with Choi's firms.
During a questioning at the prosecution on Tuesday last week, Park reportedly denied all allegations against her.