SEOUL – A court in South Korea has sentenced Choi Soon-sil, dubbed the “female Rasputin,” on Tuesday to 20 years in prison for her role in the corruption scandal which rocked the country in 2016 and led to the impeachment of president Park Geun-hye.
Choi, 61, a close of friend of the former president, was accused of 18 offences, including abuse of power, coercion and bribery.
The prosecution had called for a 25-year jail sentence.
She was found guilty in June 2017 on separate corruption charges, and sentenced to three years in prison.
Choi was detained November 2016 on charges of leading a network which extorted some of the country’s largest companies in return for preferential treatment from the government.
She has denied all charges, and will also have to pay a fine of 18 billion won (about $16.5 million), as ruled by the Seoul Central District, reported local news agency Yonhap.
The companies extorted include several “chaebol” or large dynastic conglomerates controlled by families such as LG, Hyundai and Samsung whose heir and de facto leader, Lee Jae-Yong, was given a suspended sentence of two and a half years for the same case.
The same Seoul court handed down on Tuesday another two-and-a-half-year prison sentence to the head of Lotte Group – another South Korean chaebol – for bribing Choi with a donation of 7 billion won.
Former presidential secretary An Chong-Bum also received a six-year prison sentence and a fine of 100 million won for accepting bribes as part of the same influence peddling network.
The Rasputin scandal shocked South Korean civil society when it emerged in late 2016 triggering mass protests almost daily and which led to the impeachment of the-then president Park Geun-hye and the subsequent election of liberal Moon Jae-in as new president.
Park has been detained since her removal in March 2017 pending the outcome of her trial.