Choi Soon-sil – who became close to Park through her father, a shadowy religious figure – initially received a 20-year prison term in 2018 for using her presidential connections to force companies to donate to foundations she controlled, among other charges.
The scandal exposed shady links between big businesses and politics in South Korea, with vice-chairman Lee Jae-yong of tech giant Samsung Electronics convicted of bribery, embezzlement and other offences.
Park was brought down in 2017 after huge street protests triggered by allegations that she and Choi took bribes in return for government favours.
But South Korea’s Supreme Court last year sent Choi’s case back to a lower court for a retrial – along with those of Park and Samsung’s Lee – saying yesterday that she should not be found guilty on some of the coercion charges. — AFP
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