South Korea's ousted President Park Geun-hye has been formally indicted on corruption charges.
Park is accused of colluding with her confidante at the heart of the scandal, Choi Soon-sil, who is already on trial for coercing local conglomerates into donating a total of 77.4 billion won (€64 million) to two non-profit foundations. Choi and Samsung's Lee Jae-yong were also arrested and are on trial.
Prosecutors said Monday that they have indicted Lotte Group Chairman Shin Dong-bin on bribery charges.
For months, Park's impeachment drama sharply divided the South Korean public with her opponents holding massive rallies to demand her impeachment or resignation, and with supporters staging demonstrations to try to keep her in office.
Park Geun-hye was the first leader of South Korea to be forced from office in response to popular pressure since the founding president, Syngman Rhee, fled into exile in Hawaii in 1960 after protests against his corrupt, authoritarian rule. 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.
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Woo Byung-woo, senior presidential secretary for civil affairs from 2015 to 2016, was also indicted for allegedly neglecting his duty in preventing Choi from meddling in state affairs and abusing his authority. Prosecutors stated [Reuters report] that Lotte paid approximately $6 million USA to Park for a wide variety of favors after experiencing operational turbulence at their locations in China.
Park was taken into custody on March 31 after the Constitutional Court chose to uphold parliament's impeachment of South Korea's 11th president in an influence-peddling scandal.
The media outlet specified that prosecutors have been advancing the investigation to finish it before the Monday's launch of the official campaign for the early presidential election slated for the May 9.
The former leader was also charged with bribery by pressuring on Samsung to make huge donation to some organizations related to Choi.
His group led months of candlelight vigils that eventually led to her impeachment and subsequent arrest. It is expected to start within weeks and could take up to six months. Park and Choi are accused of receiving $68 million, with about half of that money coming from Samsung.
Lotte denied allegations that it made improper deals with Park, or those linked to her, for favors, but said it would explain itself at court to resolve suspicions.