World

S Korea's 'Rasputin' refuses to leave cell for questioning

SEOUL: The woman at the heart of the impeachment crisis surrounding South Korean President Park Geun Hye refused to leave her jail cell yesterday for questioning by lawmakers who had convened a special hearing at her detention centre.

Choi Soon Sil, a long-time friend of the president, repeatedly snubbed a parliamentary committee probing a corruption scandal that triggered Ms Park's impeachment earlier this month.

Currently on trial for extortion and abuse of power, Choi had ignored summons to attend the committee's hearings in the National Assembly - prompting the lawmakers to come to her.

A special, televised hearing was convened where Choi is being held on the outskirts of Seoul, but lawmakers were left with little to do after she refused to leave her cell.

Two former top presidential aides being held in a separate facility also refused to appear for questioning.

CONTEMPT

There are no legal grounds for forcing witnesses to attend a parliamentary hearing, although they can be held in contempt.

Choi had been questioned on Sunday by special prosecutors investigating the extent of the president's alleged collusion with Choi in shaking down a number of major conglomerates to provide "donations" to two foundations she controlled.

She denied new allegations that she had stashed around 10 trillion won (S$12 billion) abroad.

Earlier, prosecutors seized documents during a raid on the residence of Kim Ki Choon, who served as Ms Park's chief of staff between 2013 and last year.

Kim has a long association with Ms Park's family, leading to allegations that he must have been aware of the inappropriate influence that Choi - dubbed a "female Rasputin" by the local media - wielded over the president. - AFP

South Koreapresidentcourt