South Korea: Prosecutors Seek Arrest Warrant for Head of Samsung

Published: 17 January 2017

lee jae yongHead of Samsung Lee Jae-yong (Photo: KBS Attribution 3.0 Unported)

By Chris Benevento

South Korean prosecutors sought a warrant Monday to arrest Samsung Group leader Lee Jae-yong in a bribery case linked to last month’s impeachment of the country’s President Park Geun-hye, state media reports.

Investigators are accusing Lee — who was interrogated for 22 hours last week — of paying 43 billion won (US$ 36.42 million) in bribes to organizations linked to the president’s friend Choi Soon-sil to secure the 2015 merger of two Samsung affiliates and solidify his control of the business.

Lee confirmed at a previous hearing in December that the family-owned business conglomerate sponsored the equestrian career of Choi’s daughter Chung Yoo-ra, including the purchases of horses and training.

According to the prosecution’s application for an arrest warrant, Lee is also accused of embezzlement and perjury, media reported.

A judge at the Seoul Central District Court will decide on Wednesday whether to grant the arrest warrant. A court official told Reuters that Lee and his lawyer would attend the hearing.

Samsung, which controlled a staggering 17 percent of South Korea’s GDP in 2012, denied that Lee paid any bribes, according to Reuters.

Choi, the president’s confidante at the center of the scandal, has been detained since late October. She has been charged with abuse of power, attempted fraud, bribery and obstruction of business.

South Korea’s parliament voted overwhelmingly on Dec. 9 to impeach President Park, giving the power of the president to Prime Minister Hwang Kyo-ahn. The country’s Constitutional Court was given 180 days to review the impeachment.