South Korea ex-president Lee detained on graft charges

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SEOUL (Reuters) - South Korean former president Lee Myung-bak was detained early on Friday on charges of taking bribes when he was in office, becoming the country’s fourth leader to end up behind bars.

Lee was grilled by prosecutors earlier this month over nearly 20 charges that involve suspicions he took around 11 billion won ($10.28 million) unlawfully from a number of institutions and individuals He denies any wrongdoing.

A South Korean judge issued the arrest warrant late on Thursday, saying Lee could destroy evidence. The former president was driven to a detention center in Seoul soon after midnight.

Lee, in office from 2008 to 2013, says the investigation into the bribery allegations is politically motivated by prosecutors under the incumbent liberal administration.

Last year, Lee’s successor ex-president Park Geun-hye was ousted from office after an influence-peddling scandal and is standing trial on charges of bribery, abuse of power and coercion. South Korean prosecutors are seeking a 30-year jail term for Park and a Seoul court will deliver a verdict in early April.

Reporting by Christine Kim and Jane Chung; Editing by Andrew Heavens