Choi-gate probe in South Korea expands as corporate executives grilled by investigators

A group of lawyers hold a rally in front of the Supreme Prosecutors Office in Seoul on Nov 9, 2016 to demand the resignation of South Korean President Park Geun Hye. PHOTO: EPA

SEOUL (BLOOMBERG) - South Korean prosecutors questioned current and former officials at some of the nation's biggest companies as part of an influence-peddling probe linked to President Park Geun Hye.

Prosecutors summoned a former executive at Hanjin Group on Wednesday (Nov 9), a day after calling in current officials at LG Group, CJ Group and SK Group to question them about donations made to two foundations allegedly controlled by a confidant of Ms Park, a spokesman at the Seoul Central District Prosecutors' Office said.

Prosecutors have charged the president's confidant, Ms Choi Soon Sil, with influence peddling and abuse of power, accusing her of coercing big companies into donating funds to her organisations. Mr An Chong-bum, a former senior presidential secretary, was arrested on Sunday (Nov 6) and accused of pressuring local companies to do so.

Ms Choi's lawyer said his client will cooperate with the investigation; Mr An has also said he will cooperate with the probe.

Representatives at Hanjin and SK Group confirmed the summons, but declined to comment further. A spokeswoman at LG Electronics said the company does not comment on legal matters, while a representative at CJ Group wasn't immediately available to comment.

On Tuesday (Nov 8), prosecutors raided Samsung Electronics Co's headquarters to seek evidence on whether the company illegally provided gifts to Ms Choi and summoned an executive at Hyundai Motor Co to ask about donations the auto-maker made to the two foundations.

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