January 30, 2018 12:40
Prosecutors have asked for an eight-year prison term for ex-presidential secretary for civil affairs Woo Byung-woo for his role in the corruption scandal that brought down President Park Geun-hye.
Prosecutors said during the final hearing on Monday that Woo abused his power to intervene in the personnel affairs of the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism and neglected his duties.
Woo was indicted last April on charges of leaning on then-culture minister Kim Jong-deok to demote seven ministry officials who objected to Park's orders to sponsor equestrian events; trying to obstruct a special auditor in probing his activities; and failing to scrutinize the establishment of two dubious foundations by Park's confidante Choi Soon-sil.
He has also been charged with perjury for obstructing a probe into the government's handling of the 2014 ferry disaster and lying about it in a National Assembly hearing.
The maximum sentence for the first offenses is five years, plus one to 10 years for perjury. If found guilty of multiple offenses, Woo faces another 50 percent increase to the heaviest sentence he receives. That means he could face up to 15 years in prison.
In his final remarks, Woo said, "I conducted my duties according to Cheong Wa Dae practices and abided by the law."
He took the same line as Park's own defense that he is a victim of a setup. "Anyone can see that I have been a target of a prosecution probe that has now gone on for a year and six months," he said. He asked the judge to protect him from what he called a "political vendetta using prosecutors."
He will be sentenced on Feb. 14.
Woo was separately indicted in December for using the National Intelligence Service to spy on opposition figures. That trial is underway in another court.
Woo, a former prosecutor, exhibited a remarkable ability to escape scrutiny in the early stages of the investigation and was widely thought to have been treated with kid gloves when he was finally questioned.
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