South Korean prosecutors to decide whether to seek arrest warrant for Samsung Group leader

Samsung Group leader Jay Y Lee arrived at the South Korean special prosecutor's office for questioning over bribery suspicions as part of a widening influence-peddling scandal that may permanently unseat President Park Geun Hye.
Samsung Group leader Lee Jae Yong was named as a suspect on Wednesday (Jan 11) and summoned on Thursday morning (Jan 12) for questioning.
Samsung Group leader Lee Jae Yong was named as a suspect on Wednesday (Jan 11) and summoned on Thursday morning (Jan 12) for questioning.PHOTO: BLOOMBERG

SEOUL (REUTERS) – The South Korean special prosecutor will decide whether to seek an arrest warrant for Samsung Group leader Jay Y. Lee within two days, a spokesman for the investigation team said on Friday (Jan 13).

The 48-year-old executive was named as a suspect on suspicions that include bribery and perjury and was questioned for more than 22 hours until his release early on Friday.

Mr Lee Kyu Chul, a spokesman for the special prosecutor’s office, told a regular briefing that a final decision had yet to be made on an arrest warrant. That decision could come as late as Sunday, he said.

Prosecutors are trying to determine if payments of about 30 billion won (S$36.4 million) Samsung made to foundations and a business backed by a confidante of President Park Geun Hye were connected to a 2015 decision by the National Pension Service to back a controversial merger of two Samsung Group affiliates.

Mr Lee said the Samsung group leader had denied some of the suspicions against him but had admitted to others. The spokesman declined to elaborate.

The Samsung executive left the prosecutors' office early on Friday after more than 22 hours of questioning. Broadcaster YTN showed him leaving the special prosecution office without answering reporters' questions, and heading to a waiting car. 

 

The corruption scandal has engulfed the highest reaches of South Korea's elite, with Ms Park impeached by parliament in December, a decision that must be upheld or overturned by the country's Constitutional Court.

Ms Park, who has been stripped of her powers in the meantime, has denied wrongdoing.

Samsung has acknowledged making payments to two foundations at the centre of the scandal, as well as to a consulting firm controlled by Choi, but has repeatedly denied accusations of lobbying to push through the controversial 2015 merger of affiliates Samsung C&T Corp and Cheil Industries Inc.

Late last month, the head of South Korea's National Pension Service, the world's third-largest pension fund, was arrested after he acknowledged that he had pressured the fund to approve the US$8 billion (S$11.4 billion) merger between the two Samsung Group affiliates while he was head of the health ministry, reversing an earlier public denial.