Court upholds convictions of key figures in 'retirement home scandal'

SEOUL, Sept. 27 (Yonhap) -- The top court on Friday upheld suspended jail terms for two former officials of ex-President Lee Myung-bak for using taxpayers' money in connection with a land deal for Lee's now-scrapped retirement home project.

The high-profile scandal centers around the Presidential Security Service (PSS) using public funds to jointly buy a plot of land on the southern outskirts of Seoul with the former president's oldest son, Lee Si-hyung, in 2011 to be used as the elder Lee's retirement residence.

Former President Lee later scrapped the project and moved into his existing private home in Nonhyeon-dong in southern Seoul after leaving the office in February.

In a ruling, the Supreme Court upheld a lower court's verdict of an 18-month sentence, suspended for three years, given to Kim In-jong, the former chief of the PSS, for incurring the state losses worth 970 million won (US$891,000).

Kim, who led the transaction, was found guilty of breach of trust charges by not dividing the cost evenly, with the security service paying too high a price for its portion of the land for security facilities, at the taxpayers' expense.

The Supreme Court also confirmed a lower court's decision that sentenced another former PSS official named Kim Tae-hwan to 18 months behind bars, suspended for three years, for the same charge.

In November, state prosecutors did not indict Lee Si-hyung but referred his tax records to the tax authorities. The former president's 35-year-old son was also cleared of suspicions of violating real estate laws by using his name instead of his father's in the real estate transaction.

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