Park Guen-hye, the impeached president of South Korea, has been formally indicted by prosecutors on Monday (17 April) for multiple charges, including bribery, sending her case to a criminal court. The move comes as prosecutors wrapped up their investigation into the high-profile influence-peddling scandal that shook the country.
Park's indictment is reported to be a widely expected follow-up after she was arrested on 31 March on numerous charges including leaking government secrets. She became the first democratically elected South Korean president to be put on a criminal trial since the mid-1990s. The previous two imprisoned leaders were military-backed presidents who were charged with corruption and mutiny.
Along with Park, Lotte Group chairman Shin Dong-bin was also formally charged with bribery on Monday, although he was not detained, Reuters reported. Shin was put on trial on charges of giving 7bn South Korean won (£4.91m) to a charity that was allegedly run by Park's close aide Choi Soon-sil.
The prosecutors also charged Park with abuse of power and coercion by putting pressure on large conglomerates to donate to non-profit foundations controlled by Choi. The ousted leader is also accused of receiving tens of billions of dollars in bribes from Samsung chief Jay Y Lee in exchange for supporting his succession, prosecutors said in a statement.
Park, Choi and Lee, who are all being held at detention centres, have denied any wrongdoing. Park is reported to have gone through five rounds of questioning in her jail cell south of the South Korea capital Seoul.
Lotte, which has also denied the allegations, said it did not make any improper deals with Park or any of her confidantes for any favour. The group said it would defend itself in court to resolve suspicions.
"We find the decision on the indictment regrettable," Lotte Group said in a statement.
Park's indictment will now prompt the Seoul Central District Court to open a trial and her case is expected to be assigned to a three-judge panel soon, the New York Times reported. The judges will then announce a date for the first hearing in what is believed to be the biggest court trial in the country, whose political landscape has been marred by the corruption scandal.