Chung Sung-Jun, Getty Images
Samsung vice chairman Lee Jae-Yong, center, leaves a hearing at the Seoul Central District Court. The court had issued an arrest warrant for Lee on charges of bribery tied to the president’s impeachment.

South Korea Summons Samsung Scion Again Over Corruption Scandal

Feb. 13, 2017
The company’s de facto leader narrowly avoided formal arrest last month when prosecutors accused him of bribing a confidante of the president with nearly $40 million. A Seoul court rejected the arrest warrant on grounds of insufficient evidence. 

SEOUL — Prosecutors summoned one of the top officials of South Korean giant Samsung again on Monday in connection with a corruption scandal that led to the impeachment of President Park Geun-Hye.

Lee Jae-Yong, Samsung Electronics vice chairman and the son of the Samsung group chairman Lee Kun-Hee, has been quizzed multiple times over his role in the scandal that has rocked the nation. 

The de facto leader of Samsung narrowly avoided being formally arrested last month when prosecutors accused him of bribing Park’s confidante to the tune of nearly $40 million. A Seoul court rejected the arrest warrant on grounds of insufficient evidence. 

But the prosecutors probing the scandal said Sunday that they would question Lee again after discovering additional evidence in recent weeks. 

“I will earnestly tell the truth to the prosecutors today,” a grave-looking Lee told reporters Monday morning before meeting with prosecutors. TV footage showed the 48-year-old walking into the prosecutors’ office while protestors chanted “Throw Lee Jae-Yong into jail!” and waved banners saying “Arrest Lee Jae-Yong!” 

The prosecutors said earlier they would decide whether or not to seek Lee’s arrest based on the outcome of Monday’s questioning. 

The scandal centers on Park’s confidante, Choi Soon-Sil, who is accused of using her ties to the president to force local firms to “donate” nearly $70 million to two non-profit foundations that Choi allegedly used for personal gain. 

Samsung was the single biggest donor to the foundations and is accused of separately giving millions of euros to Choi and her daughter in a bid to secure policy favors from Park in return.

Park has been named as an accomplice and is also accused of letting Choi, who has no title or security clearance, handle a wide range of state affairs including nominations of top officials. 

Lee — who has effectively taken the helm of the group since his father suffered a heart attack in 2014 — is described as a key figure in the scandal. 

Prosecutors are investigating whether Samsung’s payments to Choi were aimed at securing state approval for the controversial merger of two Samsung units in 2015 — seen as a key step towards ensuring a smooth power transfer to Lee from his father. 

The merger was opposed by many investors who said it willfully unvalued the shares of one of the firms. But it went through after Seoul’s state pension fund, a major Samsung shareholder, approved it.

Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2017

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