Samsung Vice Chairman Lee Jae-Yong could soon be arrested on charges of corruption. A prosecutor in South Korea is attempting to have him arrested and has accused him of heading up the huge scandal that resulted impeachment proceedings against South Korean President Park Geun-hye.
Samsung heir under fire
An independent counsel team held a press briefing this week to apprise the media of the developments in the case. Prosecutors believe Samsung donated tens of millions of dollars to organizations connected to one of Park’s friends. They also believe that those payments were bribes in exchange for Park’s support of the merger of two of Samsung’s affiliates, which would then form a de-facto holding company.
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According to The New York Times, the merger is an important part of Lee’s attempts to inherit control of Samsung from his father, who is currently incapacitated following a heart attack in 2014. U.S.-based activist investment firm Elliott Management fought the merger but lost the battle and later vowed to sell out of its stake in Samsung.
Prosecutors expect to interrogate President Park early next month, although it’s unclear whether she will accept their formal request. She previously agreed to an interrogation before the independent probe was launched, but then later, she rejected requests for to be questioned face to face. The case against her is pending in South Korea’s Constitutional Court.
Prosecutors seek arrest warrant for Lee
The independent counsel asked for an arrest warrant for Lee on Monday. He faces multiple corruption charges, including bribery. He’s accused of bribing Choi Soon-sil, daughter of a religious leader in South Korea, friend of President Park, and ex-wife of Park’s former chief of staff. Choi has already been arrested.
South Korean prosecutors say they have enough evidence to support their charges against President Park and Choi as “co-conspirators sharing profits” in the bribery. If Lee is arrested, they could uncover further information about President Park’s alleged involvement.
Park and Choi have both denied wrongdoing. In a statement on Monday, Samsung also denied paying bribes or making “improper requests related to the merger of Samsung affiliates or the leadership transition.