Leader of left-leaning Democratic Party faces charges including bribery, breach of duty and conflict of interest.
Lee, the leader of the left-leaning Democratic Party, faces charges including bribery, breach of duty, conflict of interest and concealment of criminal proceeds stemming from his time as mayor of Seongnam, South Korea’s state-funded Yonhap News Agency reported on Wednesday.
Prosecutors allege that Lee, who served as mayor of Seongnam from 2010-2018, colluded with real estate developers when he was mayor to help them pocket 800 billion won ($611.5m), inflicting losses of nearly 490 million won on the city.
Lee is also accused of soliciting bribes from a number of companies to fund the city’s struggling football club in exchange for preferential government treatment.
Lee, who lost last year’s presidential election to chief prosecutor-turned-politician Yoon Suk-yeol, has denied wrongdoing and cast himself as the victim of a political vendetta orchestrated by the conservative government.
Lee told a Democratic Party meeting on Wednesday that his indictment was “not surprising at all”.
“As I have repeated many times, the indictment had already been determined,” Lee said, according to Yonhap.
Prosecutors last month failed in a bid to arrest Lee after the National Assembly, where the Democratic Party holds a commanding majority, narrowly voted against stripping him of his immunity from arrest as a sitting politician.
While Lee only lost to Yoon by a razor margin in last year’s presidential poll, the allegations against him have dented his popularity.
In a poll commissioned by the state broadcaster KBS earlier this month, nearly 54 percent of respondents said Lee should resign, while 52 percent said parliament had been wrong to deny a warrant for his arrest.
Nearly 54 percent of those asked said the claims against Lee deserved to be investigated, while nearly 41 said they believed the probe was political retribution.