Woman in South Korea's influence peddling scandal denies knowing Samsung's 2015 merger plan

Choi Soon Sil, who is at the center of a corruption scandal, arrives for questioning at the Constitutional Court in Seoul, South Korea on Jan 16, 2017.
Choi Soon Sil, who is at the center of a corruption scandal, arrives for questioning at the Constitutional Court in Seoul, South Korea on Jan 16, 2017.PHOTO: EPA

SEOUL (REUTERS) - The woman at the centre of a corruption scandal engulfing South Korean President Park Geun Hye's administration said on Monday (Jan 16) that she had no prior knowledge of Samsung Group's plans for a controversial 2015 merger of two affiliates.

"Even if I knew, I could not have passed on any information because I have no knowledge about mergers or hedge funds, anything like that, in the first place," Choi Soon Sil, a friend of Ms Park, told a public hearing at South Korea's Constitutional Court.

South Korea's Constitutional Court began hearing arguments this month on whether to uphold parliament's vote last month to impeach the president.

Choi is accused of colluding with Park to pressure big businesses, including Samsung, to contribute to non-profit foundations backing the president’s initiatives.

Prosecutors have been looking into whether Samsung’s support for a business and foundations backed by Choi may have been connected to the National Pension Service’s 2015 decision to support a controversial US$8 billion (S$11.4 billion) merger of two Samsung Group affiliates.

Choi, in detention and on trial on charges of abuse of power and attempted fraud, again denied wrongdoing on Monday.

 

She said she had access to a former presidential aide’s email address which had Blue House (presidential office) documents, but that she only looked at Ms Park’s speeches for“emotional expression”.

Choi described the president as “a person without ulterior motives” who “does not allow people to take private interest or take private interest herself”.