The Supreme Court confirmed a higher and lower court ruling, Thursday, that sentenced Rep. Choi Kyung-hwan of the main opposition Liberty Korea Party to five years in prison for taking bribes from the country's spy agency while serving as finance minister in 2014.
In June 2018, the Seoul Central District Court slapped Choi with a five-year prison term, ordering him to forfeit 100 million won ($85,000) and pay 150 million won in fines. In January this year, the Seoul High Court upheld the ruling as the top court has now also done.
He had been kept in detention because of the allegations since January 2018.
Choi, a four-time lawmaker who is close to former President Park Geun-hye, was convicted of accepting 100 million won from the National intelligence Service (NIS) in October 2014 when he was the finance minister ― who doubled as the deputy prime minister for economic affairs.
The bribe was given by former NIS chief Lee Byung-kee to "thank" Choi for his role in raising the spy agency's budget by 47.2 billion won when then-liberal opposition parties sought to reduce it on the grounds that the use of such funds could not be tracked.
The lower courts said Choi had the power to intervene in the budget allocations for all government agencies, including the NIS, and he was aware that the 100 million won was provided in return for him using his influence.
They said a heavy punishment was inevitable as his taking bribes damaged public confidence in the finance minister's duties and a massive amount of state funds was misused.
Choi, who represents Gyeongsan, North Gyeongsang Province, was finance minister from July 2014 to January 2016 under the Park administration.