"I am sorry for causing concerns, when the country's economy is facing difficulties and the security environment is at a sensitive point", Lee read from a prepared statement in front of 600 reporters and journalists before entering the prosecutor's office. Lee's been firmly denying all charges against him and many see his short remark before the press on Wednesday morning as a direct criticism of the current administration's efforts to eradicate what is being called 'wrongdoings of the past'.
Former South Korean President Lee Myung-bak faces prosecutors Wednesday for an intensive questioning session over various allegations of bribery and irregularities during his years in office.
The former conservative leader, who was in office from 2009 to 2013, is the fifth president to be grilled by the prosecution, following Chun Doo-hwan, Roh Tae-woo, Roh Moo-hyun and Park Geun-hye. "All I wish for is that this will be the last time in history" that a former president is being investigated.
The probe into Lee comes only about a year after the prosecution wrapped up its investigation into a massive influence-peddling case involving Lee's successor, Park Geun-hye.
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Park Geun-hye, 66, was impeached previous year amid a massive corruption scandal involving her secret confidante, Choi Soon-sil, and is now being tried on dozens of charges ranging from abuse of power to corruption. She is now standing trial, with prosecutors requesting 30 years in jail.
They will question him about allegations that he pushed Samsung to pay US legal fees for DAS, an auto parts company nominally owned by his brother on his behalf, and if he received illicit money from the National Intelligence Service while in office.
South Korean media have reported that Lee allegedly received more than 9 million dollars in possible bribes.
DAS is under investigation for embezzlement and creating a slush fund, which is believed to have been funneled into Lee for his presidential campaign. They are Kang Hoon, 64, a judge-turned-lawyer who also served as Lee's former presidential legal assistant, Pi Young-hyun, 48, and Kim Byung-cheol, 43.
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The National Intelligence Service, the country's spy agency, is believed to have delivered secret operation fund to Lee's office at his behest through his closest aides, some of whom already admitted the allegation. Lee is expected to reiterate his claim that it belongs to his older brother Lee Sang-eun.
Lee is also suspected of dodging taxes through accounting fraud in the DAS and by owning real estate assets and bank deposits under borrowed names. They are then expected to decide whether to seek an arrest warrant.
According to the Realmeter poll earlier this month, seven out of 10 South Koreans said Lee should be arrested for a criminal investigation.
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