A South Korean court has issued an arrest warrant for the brother of President Lee Myung-bak on bribery charges, a court official said Wednesday, dealing a blow to the governing party ahead of elections later this year.
Lee Sang-deuk, a former six-term lawmaker, has been charged over allegations he received about half a million dollars from the savings banks Solomon and Mirae in exchange for exerting influence over officials investigating the banks, the court official said.
He was taken to a detention center early Wednesday after the issuing of the arrest warrant, said the court official, who declined to be identified because she is not authorized to speak publicly on the case.
Lee Sang-deuk is considered to have been the major force behind Lee Myung-bak's presidential election in 2007.
The incumbent president won't be running for re-election later this year because the law limits presidents to only one five-year term, but the arrest taints the image of his governing party.
Lee Sang-deuk's lawyer did not return calls seeking comment on Wednesday.
The president's brother said he was sorry as he was taken to the detention center but did not comment further, South Korea's Yonhap news agency reported.
The operations of Solomon and Mirae were suspended in May for six months by the authorities, prompting anger from people who were unable to retrieve money they had deposited in the banks.
Lee Sang-deuk is not the first relative of a South Korean president to face criminal charges.
"Families of former presidents have been misusing power before," said Kwang Won-taek, professor at Seoul National University. "The current's president's term is going to end soon and the suspicions are surfacing."