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A confidante accused of collaborating with South Korea's former president for personal gain was sentenced Tuesday to 20 years in prison for bribery and other crimes in a political scandal that triggered the country's first presidential impeachment and the conviction of an heir to the Samsung empire.

The Seoul Central District Court also sentenced the chairman of the Lotte Group, South Korea's fifth-largest conglomerate, to 2 ½ years in prison for bribery in the same case.

Former President Park Geun-hye was impeached last March and removed from office in disgrace. She is standing trial on more than a dozen criminal charges, and the case against her close friend could hint at the penalty Park could face if convicted.

The court convicted Choi Soon-sil of abuse of power, bribery and other crimes and fined her 18 billion won ($17 million). Choi left the courtroom quietly after the sentencing without showing any emotion.

Among her crimes was pressuring major companies to donate large sums to foundations under her control and receiving bribes from Samsung and Lotte.

The court said Choi's crimes were grave given how they led to the impeachment of a president and disappointed the public.

Choi's lawyer, Lee Kyung-jae, said she would appeal. At her final court hearing in December, Lee called the accusations a complete fabrication by politicians, civic groups, media and politically motivated prosecutors who wanted to overthrow Park's government, according to Yonhap News agency.

In the Lotte case, the court said Chairman Shin Dong-bin offered 7 billion won ($6.5 million) in payments to Choi's foundations to curry favors such as winning a state license to open a duty-free shop and to strengthen his control over the group. Lotte has interests in retail, confectionary and many other businesses.

The sentencing sent a shockwave through the South Korean business community, which had been relieved to see an appeals court release Samsung heir Lee Jae-yong from prison last week on a suspended sentence with some of his convictions overturned.

In a third case Tuesday, the court sentenced one of Park's former senior aides, Ahn Jong-beom, to six years in prison for abuse of power.

Choi was largely unknown to the South Korean public until a series of revelations in late 2016 disclosed how she allegedly pulled government strings from the shadows, editing presidential speeches and wielding influence over government personnel even though she held no official government position.

She also influenced the college admission process for her daughter, a national equestrian team member who was accepted by a top university in Seoul, enraging the public and helping to spark massive anti-government candlelight rallies. Choi received a three-year prison term last June in a separate case related to influence-peddling in university admissions.

Her case brought the debate about ties between politics and business in South Korea to the fore, as several top business leaders were implicated in the scandal. Her daughter's equestrian training overseas was scrutinized and questions were raised about whether Samsung's purchase of expensive horses for her daughter constituted bribery.

The appeals court ruling that allowed Lee, Samsung's vice chairman, to be freed last week after nearly a year in jail said Lee was unable to reject Park's request to financially support Choi and was coerced into making the payments


Kenya's High Court on Thursday ordered the government to end its shutdown of the country's top three TV stations after they tried to broadcast images of the opposition leader's mock inauguration, a ceremony considered treasonous.

Journalists and human rights groups have raised an outcry over the shutdown of live transmissions that began Tuesday. Some journalists told The Associated Press they spent the night in their newsroom to avoid arrest.

Opposition leader Raila Odinga on Tuesday declared himself "the people's president" in protest of President Uhuru Kenyatta's election win last year, in a ceremony attended by tens of thousands of supporters in the capital, Nairobi. Odinga claims the vote was rigged and that electoral reforms in the East African nation have not been made.

The government responded to Odinga's "swearing-in" by declaring the opposition movement a criminal organization and investigating "conspirators" in Tuesday's ceremony. An opposition lawmaker who stood beside Odinga and wore judicial dress was arrested Wednesday and taken to court, where police fired tear gas at his supporters. It was not clear what charges the lawmaker, T.J. Kajwang, faced.

Kenya's interior minister, Fred Matiangi, on Wednesday said the TV stations and some radio stations would remain shut down while being investigated for their alleged role in what he called an attempt to "subvert and overthrow" Kenyatta's government. Matiangi claimed that the media's complicity in the mock inauguration would have led to the deaths of thousands of Kenyans.

But on Thursday, High Court Judge Chacha Mwita directed the government to restore the transmission for the Kenya Television Network, Citizen Television and Nation Television News and not to interfere with the stations until a case challenging their shutdown is heard.


Uber suffered a new blow Wednesday as the European Union's top court ruled that it should be regulated as a transport company instead of a technology service, a decision that crimps its activities around Europe and could weigh on other app-based companies too.

Taxi drivers honked horns to celebrate the ruling, which punctures Uber's image as the pioneer of a new gig economy that's setting its own rules while governments clamber to keep up.

Uber — which is wrapping up a particularly punishing year — sought to downplay the decision, which might only affect the company's operations in four countries. Uber said it will try to keep expanding in Europe anyway.

The decision by the Luxembourg-based European Court of Justice in theory applies to ride-hailing services around the 28-nation EU. But the ruling leaves it to national governments to decide how and whether to change the way they regulate Uber and similar services.

Uber has gained a strong foothold and customer base in most European countries, adapting its multiple services to bend to local rules when faced with legal challenges. Its hallmark low-cost service — hooking up unlicensed freelance drivers with riders via an app — is already banned in many European cities, and instead Uber's services are much like taxis, just more flexible and sometimes cheaper.

Some other internet-based businesses fear the ruling could suppress innovation and usher in other restrictions, as European authorities look for ways to regulate companies that operate online and outside traditional sectors and don't fit in with existing laws.

The decision stems from a complaint by a Barcelona taxi drivers association, which wanted to prevent Uber from setting up in the Spanish city. The taxi drivers said Uber drivers should have authorizations and licenses, and accused the company of engaging in unfair competition.

Arguing its case, San Francisco-based Uber said it should be regulated as an information services provider, because it is based on an app that connects drivers to riders.


Overturning an appeal court's decision, South Korea's Supreme Court said Tuesday the family of a Samsung worker who died of a brain tumor should be eligible for state compensation for an occupational disease.

The ruling on Lee Yoon-jung, who was diagnosed with a brain tumor at age 30 and died two years later, reflects a shift in the handling of such cases in South Korea.

Workers used to have the onus of proving the cause of a disease caused by their work. But after years of campaigning by labor advocates to raise awareness about the obstacles workers face in getting information about chemicals used in manufacturing, courts have begun to sometimes rule in favor of workers.

Lee worked at a Samsung chip factory for six years from 1997 to 2003 but there was no record available of the levels of chemicals she was exposed to while working there.

An appeals court denied the claim filed by Lee, based on government investigations into the factory conducted after she left the company. The investigations reported that the workers' exposure to some toxins, such as benzene, formaldehyde and lead, were lower than maximum permissible limits. They did not measure exposure levels to other chemicals or investigate their health risks.

The Supreme Court said such limitations in government investigations should not be held against a worker with a rare disease whose cause is unknown.

The case filed by Lee's family is the second time this year South Korea's highest court has ruled in favor of a worker. In August, the Supreme Court struck down a lower court's ruling that denied compensation to a former Samsung LCD factory worker with multiple sclerosis.

The government-run Korea Workers' Compensation & Welfare Service, the defendant in the case, did not respond to requests for comment.

Lim Ja-woon, the lawyer representing Lee, said brain tumors are the second-most common disease, after leukemia, among former Samsung workers who sought compensation or financial aid from the government or from Samsung for a possible occupational disease. He said 27 Samsung Electronics workers have been diagnosed with brain tumors, including eight people who worked at the same factory as Lee.


As separatists in Catalonia jockeyed Friday to elude court rulings and find ways to deliver on their promise to declare independence, business giants hit back with plans to relocate their headquarters elsewhere in Spain amid the increasing political uncertainty.

Caixabank, Spain's third lender in global assets, said Friday that it was moving from Barcelona to the eastern city of Valencia, "given the current situation in Catalonia." It said it wants to remain in the eurozone and under the supervision of the European Central Bank — two things that would not happen if Catalonia did manage to secede.

The region's separatist government has vowed to use a pro-independence victory in a disputed referendum last weekend to go ahead with secession, while calling for Spain's central government to accept a dialogue.

But the government of Spain's conservative Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy has rejected any negotiations unless the separatists drop their secession bid. Rajoy urged Puigdemont to cancel plans for declaring independence in order to avoid "greater evils."

"In order to dialogue, you must stay within the legal framework," Spanish cabinet spokesman Inigo Mendez de Vigo told reporters Friday, blaming the secessionists for breaking Spain's constitutional order.

"Coexistence is broken" in Catalonia, he said, warning Catalans that a parliamentary declaration of independence "is not enough" and that the international community needs to recognize independent nations.



Uber lawyers are in a London courtroom trying to overturn a ruling that its drivers are employees of the ride-hailing service — not independent contractors.

Britain's employment tribunal decided earlier this year that two drivers who brought a claim against the company were Uber employees, entitling them to paid time off and a guaranteed minimum wage.

Uber is appealing, arguing that drivers would lose the "personal flexibility they value" as a result of the decision.

Uber attorney Dinah Rose told the tribunal the company is incorrectly lumped together with "a variety of other platforms and businesses" amid debate over the so-called gig economy.

She says Uber has the same business model as taxi firms that use self-employed drivers but technology allows it to do so on a "much larger scale."



Foxconn Technology Group could appeal lawsuits directly to the conservative-controlled Wisconsin Supreme Court, skipping the state appeals court, under changes to a $3 billion incentive package the Legislature's budget-writing committee approved Tuesday.

The unprecedented change to the usual judicial process drew criticism from Democrats, who also blasted the $3 billion incentives as a corporate welfare giveaway. But they didn't have the votes needed to stop the proposal.

The Republican-controlled committee approved the bill on a party line 12-4 vote. The state Senate planned to vote on it Sept. 12, with the Assembly expected to quickly follow. Both are under GOP control.

The Assembly approved it last month, but will have to vote again since the committee changed the measure which amounts to the largest state tax break to a foreign corporation in U.S. history. It must pass both houses of the Legislature in the same form before going to Gov. Scott Walker for his signature.

Taiwan-based Foxconn signed a deal with Wisconsin to invest up to $10 billion in the state on a massive flat-screen manufacturing campus that could employ up to 13,000 people. The plant is to be built in southeastern Wisconsin and be open as soon as 2020, although Foxconn has not identified its exact location yet.

"This is probably the biggest thing to happen to Wisconsin since the cow," Republican budget committee co-chair Rep. John Nygren said Tuesday.

Proponents say the plant offers a once-in-a lifetime opportunity for the state, while critics say the state is giving away too much with the $3 billion incentive package. The bill also waives environmental regulations that will allow Foxconn to build in wetland and waterways and construct its 20-million-square-foot campus without first doing an environmental impact statement.

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