SEOUL – An aide of jailed former South Korea president Park Geun-hye on Wednesday pleaded not guilty during a review ordered by the Supreme Court into charges of large scale corruption scandal that shook the country in 2017.
“I was never a secret adviser of President Park,” Choi Soon-sil, called the South Korean Rasputin owing to her proximity to the former president, told the Seoul High Court in the first hearing of the review.
“I just helped President Park while leading an ordinary life as the owner of a kindergarten, and I swear to God I never had any connection to corporations,” she added, according to Yonhap agency.
In August, the apex court ordered a review of a lower court’s trial of Choi, Park, and the de facto leader of Samsung group Lee Jae-yong over technicalities.
In case of Choi, the Supreme Court considered her not guilty of charges involving coercion that she faced, for which, along with other charges, she was sentenced to 20 years in prison. Park was ousted in March 2017 and was sentenced to 25 years in prison.
The courts found them guilty of colluding to create a network through which they extorted large companies such as Samsung, Hyundai or Lotte.
Lee Jae-yong was sentenced to five years in prison in 2017 for bribing Park to obtain government favors, although in February 2018 an appellate court reduced his sentence and allowed him to leave prison.
The top court also ordered a repeat of his trial, considering that he paid more bribes than initially estimated, including horses worth 3.4 billion won ($2.9 million) gifted by Samsung to Choi’s daughter.
In this regard, Choi denied they were bribes as “Samsung owns them and has a right to dispose of them.”
Experts believe that Choi could face a sentence similar to her previous one given that the crime of coercion carried one of the lowest prison terms.