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(LEAD) Lee's brother sentenced to 2 years in jail for bribery
SEOUL, Jan. 24 (Yonhap) -- An elder brother of President Lee Myung-bak was sentenced to two years in prison and ordered to pay a fine of 750 million won (US$654,165) on Thursday for receiving a massive amount of bribes.

   Lee Sang-deuk, a former six-term lawmaker who was considered to be one of the most powerful figures under the Lee presidency, was found guilty of receiving a total of around 750 million won from two troubled savings banks and a local company.

   It is the first time in Korean history that a brother of a sitting president has been criminally convicted.

  
Lee Sang-deuk (Yonhap file photo)


After the ruling, the elder Lee's lawyer said he has no reason not to appeal, as the sentence is too heavy. He has been in jail since last July.

   In the same court hearing, Rep. Chung Doo-un of the ruling Saenuri Party, who was formerly a close aide for President Lee, was sentenced to one year behind bars on charges of colluding with the elder Lee to take around 300 million won in kickbacks from the two savings banks. Chung, who was also ordered to forfeit 140 million won, was immediately put under arrest and sent to prison after the ruling.

   Earlier this month, aides to outgoing President Lee talked of possibly issuing a special pardon around Lunar New Year's Day, sparking strong criticism that the move is an attempt to get close confidants, including the elder Lee, out of jail.

   There have been speculations that the elder Lee would not appeal his prison sentence to higher courts, in an aim to make himself eligible for the special pardon.

   The elder Lee accepted 300 million won in kickbacks from now-imprisoned Solomon Savings Bank chairman Lim Suk in return for using his influence to help the bank avoid regulatory audits and punishment, two months before the presidential election in 2007, court records showed. He also received another 300 million won in December 2007 from Kim Chan-kyong, chief of Mirae Savings Bank, in return for influence peddling.

   He also took bribes from textile manufacturer Kolon Group, according to the records. He accepted around 2.5 to 3 million won each month, totaling some 157.5 million won.

   The graft scandal of the elder Lee was the latest in a series of blows to the president who has been plagued by a spate of corruption scandals in his last months in office.

   Following his brother's indictment, President Lee apologized to the nation over a string of graft scandals not only involving his brother but also his former aides, marking his sixth public apology in his single five-year term which ends next month.

  
Rep. Chung Doo-un (Yonhap file photo)

khj@yna.co.kr
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