UPDATE : 2018.9.18 TUE 17:49
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Court sentences ex-leader Park to 8 years in prison for taking NIS funds, political interference

A Seoul court on Friday sentenced former President Park Geun-hye to eight years in prison for illegally taking off-book funds from the state spy agency and interfering in elections during her term in office.

Televised live, the Seoul Central District Court meted out the guilty verdict to the 66-year-old, who's already serving a 24-year jail term on a string of corruption charges in a nation-rocking scandal that led to her ousting last year.

The court also ordered her to forfeit 3.3 billion won (US$2.91 million).

Prosecutors demanded a 15-year imprisonment for Park.

She was not present at Friday's trial, as she has been boycotting all her trials, which she said "are politically motivated," accusing the judiciary and prosecution of being unfair.

In early January, prosecutors indicted Park on additional charges that include bribery, embezzlement and loss of state funds for illegally accepting 3.5 billion won from the National Intelligence Service (NIS) between May 2013 and September 2016.

Former President Park Geun-hye arrives at the courthouse to attend her corruption trial in Seoul on Sept. 26, 2017, in this file photo. (Yonhap)

She's also been indicted for interfering in the then-ruling Saenuri Party's candidate nominations for the 2016 general elections.

But the court on Friday acquitted her of the bribery charges, ruling that the NIS provisions of its funds to Park's office were not paid in return for any favors.

The court acknowledged that it has been customary for the spy agency to provide funds to the presidential office from its own state coffers, known as the untraceable special activities fund.

The fact that the then spy chiefs had delivered the funds to Park's Cheong Wa Dae in a fixed amount, and on a regular basis, is far from the conventional way of paying someone a bribe, which usually comes in a lump sum payment at one time.

Park is accused of spending some of the money for private use, such as on bills for secret phones she used to contact Choi, maintenance costs for her private residence in southern Seoul and medical treatment. The funds were also used for incentives and bonuses for Park's close aides.

The court ruling is in line with last week's verdict in a separate trial on her three former aides, who were indicted alongside her for their involvement in the NIS bribery case. The court cleared them of bribery charges, ruling the NIS provisions to Park's office were not bribes. (yonhap)

Hillary Kang  edt@koreapost.com

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