Samsung leader Lee Jae Yong appears for hearing on arrest warrant in President Park Geun Hye corruption probe

Samsung Group chief Lee Jae Yong outside the special prosecutor's office in Seoul, South Korea, on Feb 14, 2017. Lee appeared at the office again on Thursday (Feb 16) on his way to a court hearing.
Samsung Group chief Lee Jae Yong outside the special prosecutor's office in Seoul, South Korea, on Feb 14, 2017. Lee appeared at the office again on Thursday (Feb 16) on his way to a court hearing.PHOTO: EPA

SEOUL (Reuters) - Samsung Group chief Lee Jae Yong appeared at the special prosecutor's office on Thursday (Feb 16) on his way to a court hearing, before a judge decides whether to issue an arrest warrant over his alleged role in a corruption scandal that has engulfed President Park Geun Hye.

South Korea’s special prosecutor’s office said on Wednesday it had expanded charges against Lee to include hiding the proceeds of a criminal act, as well as bribery, embezzlement, hiding assets overseas and perjury.

Prosecutors are seeking an arrest warrant for Lee for the second time in a month.  

The special prosecutor’s office has focused on Samsung Group’s relationship with Park, accusing Lee in his capacity as the head of South Korea’s largest conglomerate of pledging 43 billion won (US$37.7 million) to a business and organisations backed by Park’s friend, Choi Soon Sil, in exchange for support of a 2015 merger of two Samsung companies.  

Park, Choi, and Samsung Group have denied bribery accusations.  

Samsung Electronics Co Ltd President Park Sang Jin, for whom the prosecution has also requested an arrest warrant, also appeared at the special prosecutor’s office on Thursday.  

Lee, 48, wearing a dark coat and a navy tie, did not answer reporters’ questions as he made his way into an elevator.  

The Seoul Central District Court, which denied prosecutors’first attempt to secure an arrest warrant for Lee last month, will hold a hearing on the latest request at 10:30 am (9:30am Singapore time).  

After an hours-long hearing, Lee and Park are expected to await the court’s decision in a detention centre. Based on previous instances, the court’s decision is expected late on Thursday or most likely early on Friday.  

On Wednesday, Samsung Group repeated an earlier denial on its official Twitter account: “Samsung has absolutely never bribed the president seeking something in return or sought illicit favours.”

“We will do our best for the truth to be revealed in court,” it said.