Former National Intelligence Service chiefs were sentenced to prison terms of three to 3 1/2 years Friday for regularly making secret money transfers to former President Park Geun-hye’s aides when she was in office.
The Seoul Central District Court found the three former spy chiefs -- Nam Jae-joon, Lee Byung-kee and Lee Byong-ho -- guilty of sending 3.5 billion won ($3.24 million) from the agency’s “special activities” budget, which had been suspected by investigators to be an illicit channel for bribes for Park.
Former National Intelligence Service chiefs Nam Jae-joon (left), Lee Byung-kee (center) and Lee Byong-ho (Yonhap)
Intended to finance the most covert operations, the special activities fund is not audited and scrutinized by the National Assembly.
“It is against the law to pay special activities funds to the president every month, which went beyond their designated purposes,” the court said.
The three, however, were acquitted for their charges that the money they offered to Park from 2013 to 2016 was for bribery purposes.
The court sentenced Nam, who headed the agency from 2013 to 2014, to three years in prison while handing out 3 1/2 year terms for both Lee Byung-kee and Lee Byong-ho, who held the position from 2014 to 2015 and 2015 to 2017, respectively.
The two Lees, who had been on trial without physical detention since last year, were put in jail after the morning ruling.
All three worked under Park who is already serving a prison term after she was impeached last year and found guilty of bribery and coercion earlier this year.
Park is also on her own trial over the same case involving the spy agency where she is under suspicion of ordering the three former chiefs to offer money. The court’s first ruling for the Park case will be handed down on July 20.
By Bak Se-hwan (firstname.lastname@example.org)