Cho Hyun-ah (C), also known as Heather Cho, daughter of chairman of Korean Air Lines, Cho Yang-ho, leaves for a detention facility in December. (Kim Hong-Ji/Reuters)

The disgraced Korean Air heiress who exploded in a notorious fit of “nut rage” after being served macadamias the wrong way during a flight was indicted Wednesday on charges of violating South Korea’s aviation safety law.

Cho Hyun-ah, the former vice president for cabin service at South Korea’s biggest airline and the eldest daughter of its chairman, is also accused of trying to cover up the incident.

The 40-year-old was sitting in first class on a Seoul-bound plane at New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport last month when a flight attendant gave her macadamia nuts in a bag instead of serving them on a plate, as procedure dictates. Cho allegedly unleashed a torrent of abusive language at the cabin crew and then ordered the plane to return to the gate and forced the chief purser off the plane.

“This case threatened the safe navigation of an airplane and caused a confusion in legal justice,” prosecutor Kim Chang-hee said at a news conference Wednesday, citing an investigation.

Cho was indicted on five counts, including violation of aviation safety laws in ordering a deviation in the plane’s route and assault interfering with the safe navigation of the aircraft. Other charges are coercion and obstruction of official duties. Lawyers said she faces up to 15 years in jail if found guilty.

Cho was detained Dec. 30 and is being held in a cell with four or five other prisoners, local media reported, a far cry from the life of luxury she is used to leading.

Another Korean Air executive, identified only by his surname, Yeo, was charged with destruction of evidence, coercion and obstruction.

“The Korean Air executives have obstructed the government investigation from the beginning by making false statements and forging evidence,” Kim said.

The South Korean media has been full of tales alleging that Korean Air tried to hush the case, and a Transport Ministry official was charged with leaking confidential information.

Even as she has staggered out of courtrooms with her head slumped, Cho has become the public face of power gone unchecked.

Family-run chaebol conglomerates, including Samsung, Hyundai and the group that owns Korean Air, helped turn agrarian South Korea into a global economic power in a few short decades, with a lot of government support.

But many Koreans are bristling at the special treatment the chaebol families are thought to receive, especially if it seems that they are above the law.

“I think a lot of people feel that having a two-tier justice system, with laws strictly applied to the average person but not to people with economic privilege, is very troubling in a democracy,” said Hank Morris, a veteran business analyst in Seoul.

Numerous members of the families that control the chaebol have been convicted on serious charges, usually related to financial impropriety, only to be pardoned by the nation’s president.

When she assumed the South Korean presidency two years ago, Park Geun-hye — whose father, former president Park Chung-hee, spurred the chaebol-led economic boom in the 1960s and 1970s — vowed to end the practice of exonerating business tycoons.

Then along came Cho and what has been labeled locally as her “nut rage.”

Cho initially insisted that she was just trying to uphold standards, but as news of her actions spread in South Korea, the public was outraged. She resigned from her position as vice president shortly after the incident became public, and her father, Cho Yang-ho, apologized to the public for not doing a better job in raising his daughter.

In his new-year address on Monday, Cho Yang-ho apologized to the public again for his daughter’s behavior and vowed to reform the business culture at the carrier.

“I am perfectly willing to accept the public’s criticism, admit our mistakes and take meaningful steps to rectify things,” he said. Hanjin Group, the conglomerate that owns Korean Air, “will be reborn,” he said, according to local reports.

Yoonjung Seo in Seoul contributed to this report.