The heavy sentence handed down to Choi Soon-sil bodes ill for Park, who is still on trial and is facing nearly exactly the same charges.
A former confidante accused of manipulating South Korea's former president for personal gain was sentenced Tuesday to 20 years in prison for bribery and other crimes in the political scandal that triggered the country's first presidential impeachment and the conviction of an heir to the Samsung empire. She was accused of exploiting her ties with the former president and forcing 50 business conglomerates to pay a combined 77.4 billion won to two nonprofit foundations she controlled.
She accepted a total of 14 billion won (RM50.7 million) from telecommunications giant Samsung and retail conglomerate Lotte, he said, and "meddled in state affairs widely".
Choi's lawyer Lee Kyung-jae said he was concerned that his client's "severely heavy sentence" came from "the judges forming their impressions straight from the prosecution's arguments", adding that he would appeal against the verdict. Shin was sentenced to two years in prison. "She is also responsible for meddling in national affairs, which led to the ouster of the president", said Judge Kim Se-yoon.
An Chong-bum, former senior secretary for Park, was sentenced to six years in jail as he was identified as an accomplice to Choi and Park. The chairman present in court, was taken into custody. Choi's sentence is five years shorter than what was demanded by state prosecutors, but it's the heaviest sentence among the people involved in the corruption scandal.
He was arrested in court, having been out on bail during the trial - but smiled calmly after he was sentenced, while his legal team looked grim.
"We respect the court's decision, but the result is very regretful", Lotte Corp. said by text message. However, last week's ruling said Lee's bribe-giving was a "passive compliance to political power", appearing to put the weight of the blame on Park and Choi. "We will do our best to have a different ruling in the appeals court".
The sentencing sends another shockwave through the local business community, which was relieved to see Samsung heir Lee Jae Yong released from prison last week on a suspended sentence with some of his convictions overturned.
The court ruled that the Lotte chairman offered 7 billion won in bribe to one of the Choi-controlled foundations in return for business favors.
Special Counsel Park Young-soo and state prosecutors demanded 25 years in prison for Choi, with a fine of 118.2 billion won and forfeiture of 7.7 billion won. A verdict in her trial is expected before her detention period ends in April.