Samsung heir Lee Jae Yong refuses to testify at former president Park Geun Hye's trial

Samsung heir Lee Jae Yong has argued that testifying at the bribery trial of former President Park Geun Hye risked affecting his own corruption hearing.
Samsung heir Lee Jae Yong has argued that testifying at the bribery trial of former President Park Geun Hye risked affecting his own corruption hearing. PHOTO: AFP

SEOUL (BLOOMBERG) - Samsung Electronics heir Lee Jae Yong has refused to testify at the bribery trial of former president Park Geun Hye, arguing that doing so risked affecting his own corruption hearing.

Lawyers for the de-facto chief of South Korea's largest corporation invoked an article in the criminal procedure Act that allows individuals to refrain from testimony that may lead to criminal prosecution.

Lee is undergoing a bribery trial of his own in connection with Park and his appearance on Monday (July 10) would have marked their first encounter since an influence-peddling scandal that led to their arrests.

The Samsung heir has been the highest-profile business figure indicted in a scandal that has spurred outrage over cosy ties between government and corporations. Both Lee and Park have denied bribery charges.

A subsequent investigation led to Park's ouster from office in March, and the election of opposition politician Moon Jae In as President in May.

Park has been accused of corruption and abuse of power, setting the stage for a trial that could result in a lengthy prison term.

The former head of state failed to appear at her own trial at Seoul Central District Court on Monday (July 10) because she had difficulty walking after injuring a toe, her lawyer said in court.

Lee has taken Samsung's reins since his father suffered a heart attack and was hospitalised in 2014. Prosecutors allege he paid bribes to secure the support of the government-run National Pension Service for a 2015 merger between Cheil Industries and Samsung C&T, which was narrowly approved over the opposition of investor Paul Elliott Singer.

Samsung has said the merger was meant to boost the competitiveness of the Samsung affiliates and had nothing to do with succession.

In Park's absence, Samsung executives and Choi Soon Sil - a friend of the former president's and a central figure in her case - will be questioned on Monday (July 10).