S. Korea’s ‘female Rasputin’ denies all graft charges

Seoul: South Korean President Park Geun-hye’s longtime friend Choi Soon-sil denied charges of her alleged role in the country’s biggest corruption scandal in recent years when the first session of the trial was held on Monday.

According to a local television channel, Choi, accused of fraud and unlawfully meddling in state affairs, denied any involvement in the case during the preparatory hearing, reports Efe.

The defendant, whom prosecutors indicated as an ‘accomplice’ in an alleged plot with President Park, denied involvement, while her lawyer demanded that the court adhere to objective evidence when judging the facts.

Nicknamed the ‘female Rasputin’, 60-year-old Choi is accused of involvement in state affairs due to her special relationship with the President as she does not hold any official government role. She has been in prison since early November, when the corruption scandal was uncovered.

Choi is also accused of extorting large sums from Korean companies, abuse of authority and leaking confidential state documents.

Two former Presidential Secretaries, An Chong-bum and Jeong Ho-seong, have also been accused of sending governmental and presidential documents to Choi.

The case has sparked outrage in the country, with millions of people taking to streets in the last six weeks.

The scandal may also cost Park her presidency, since MPs have voted to impeach her. She must now wait for the South Korea constitutional court to decide whether the impeachment vote is valid.