Samsung scion questioned again

Mr Lee faced another round of questioning yesterday by South Korea's special prosecutor.
Mr Lee faced another round of questioning yesterday by South Korea's special prosecutor.

SEOUL • A special prosecutor yesterday brought back Samsung Group's Mr Lee Jae Yong for more questioning over various allegations, including bribery, keeping up the pressure on South Korea's biggest business empire.

Mr Lee, the de facto head of the Samsung Group and vice-chairman of Samsung Electronics, spent most of the day at the investigator's offices, along with two other executives, including Samsung Electronics president Park Sang Jin.

At his first appearance last month, Mr Lee was held for 22 hours. The prosecutor's request to arrest Mr Lee was rejected by a court in Seoul on Jan 19. A judge said there was not enough evidence to detain Mr Lee based on the facts presented about alleged payments and other charges.

The prosecutor may seek another warrant based on what the the probe discovers yesterday.

Samsung's 48-year-old heir apparent said he would "earnestly" speak to prosecutors. The billionaire is accused of participating in payments that Samsung made to a close friend of South Korean President Park Geun Hye in exchange for government support in the firm's succession planning.

"We will consider requesting arrest warrants for the Samsung executives charged as suspects from the start after (the) summon and questioning," said the special prosecutor's spokesman, Mr Lee Kyu Chul ,at a briefing.

A prolonged investigation into the latest political scandal surrounding Ms Park and the country's large business groups could potentially derail succession plans at Samsung, which has already delayed some major management plans.

Mr Chung Sun Sup, who runs corporate researcher Chaebul.com, said it was unlikely that an arrest warrant for Mr Lee will be issued. "There is a possibility that any request made for an arrest warrant may be rejected, like the last time, unless there are new criminal charges," he said. "The alleged recipient, President Park, hasn't been investigated, which means the elements of bribery do not fulfil the legal requirements."

Samsung Group has consistently denied allegations that it provided financial aid to Ms Park's confidant Choi Soon Sil in return for political favours.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 14, 2017, with the headline 'Samsung scion questioned again'. Print Edition | Subscribe