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SEOUL - South Korean prosecutors on Tuesday summoned conservative former president Lee Myung-bak for questioning as a criminal suspect in a bribery scandal, the country"s latest former head of state to be investigated.
If he appears, Lee would become the fourth South Korean president in the country"s modern history to appear in the prosecution office as a criminal suspect.
"We need to investigate former president Lee to find the truth (in the scandal) in a transparent and effective manner," Yonhap news agency quoted an unidentified Seoul prosecutor as saying.
Allegations of corruption involving the 76-year-old"s relatives and aides during his 2008-13 presidential term have mounted in recent weeks as prosecutors investigate multiple cases of bribery amounting to millions of dollars.
Two of the ex-president"s former aides have been arrested and the homes and offices of his brothers raided.
Lee was told to present himself to prosecutors on Wednesday next week to be questioned as a "suspect", Yonhap said.
South Korean presidents have a tendency to end up in prison - or meet untimely ends - after their time in power, usually once their political rivals have moved into the presidential Blue House.
Lee"s successor Park Geunhye was ousted last year over a massive corruption scandal that emerged in 2016.
The verdict in her trial on charges of bribery and abuse of power is due next month, with prosecutors demanding 30 years in jail.
Lee"s own predecessor, the liberal Roh Moo-hyun, committed suicide by jumping off a cliff after being questioned over corruption allegations in 2009.
The allegations against Lee include claims that Samsung bought a presidential pardon in 2009 for its chairman Lee Kun-hee, who had been convicted of tax evasion and given a suspended jail sentence.
Samsung reportedly paid 6 billion won ($5.6 million) in legal fees to a US law firm on the former president"s behalf.
Both Samsung and Lee have denied the allegations as groundless.
Lee has dismissed the investigation into him as "political revenge".
"I feel saddened that the country is being shaken to its foundation by recent attempts to roll back history," he said in a statement in January.
His office said in a statement on Tuesday that he would comply with the prosecutors" summons, but indicated that he wants to reschedule the date.
Current left-leaning President Moon Jae-in has vowed to "fix past wrongs" in the country"s governance, calling them "accumulated evils".
AFP - Xinhua