South Korea prosecutors charge ousted president Park and Lotte chief with bribery

The corruption allegations against Park Geun-hye touched off months of massive streets protests that prompted parliament to impeach her in December and the Constitutional Court to dismiss her in March.

Ousted South Korean president Park Geun-hye has been formally charged in a corruption scandal that led to her impeachment, BBC reports. Park was impeached late past year, officially stripped of power in March and has been in a detention facility near Seoul since being arrested last month on allegations that she colluded with a confidante to extort from businesses, take bribes and commit other wrongdoing. Since her arrest, prosecutors have questioned Park five more times inside the Seoul Detention Center, where she has been held since her arrest.

As well as claims she and her friend Choi Soon-sil coerced conglomerates into donating 77.4 billion won ($68 million) to two nonprofit foundations, Park is also accused of soliciting bribes from the Lotte and SK groups.

Park denies all the charges, saying she's the victim of a conspiracy and did not know about Choi's alleged activities. Lee, Choi and Samsung Group have also denied wrongdoing.

If convicted, her bribery charge carries the biggest punishment, ranging from 10 years in prison to life imprisonment.

Now Choi faces an additional charge of bribery involving Shin, the prosecutors said. The criminal trial of Park is expected to begin after the May 9 presidential election to minimize the political impact it could have on the election campaign that officially began earlier in the day.

Park, 65-year-old daughter of the late former dictator Park Chung-Hee, spent almost two decades living in Seoul's sprawling presidential palace, before the allegations of corruption engulfed her presidency late last year.

Her indictment marks the latest episode in a remarkable fall from grace for the first woman to reach the highest office in South Korea.

It is the latest twist to a corruption scandal that rocked the country for months.

Shin allegedly offered seven billion won ($6.15 million) to a sports foundation linked with Choi in exchange for a policy favour from Park over Lotte's duty-free business.

The Seoul Central District Prosecutors' Office also filed charges against ex-presidential aide Woo Byung-woo and Lotte Group Chairman Shin Dong-bin - both without physical detention - over allegations tied to Park's case.

Park Chung-hee's iron-fisted 18-year rule ended when he was gunned down by his spy chief in 1979.

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