A South Korean court has refused prosecutors’ requests to issue an arrest warrant for Samsung Electronics vice-chairman Lee Jae-yong in connection with allegations of bribery, embezzlement and perjury.
The request was linked to the corruption scandal that led to the impeachment of South Korea’s President Park Geung-hye.
Lee (pictured) – who underwent 22 hours of questioning last week – is suspected of providing Park’s confidant Choi Soon-sil and her associates with a total of 43 billion won (£30.1 million), in return for head of state Cheong Wa Dae exerting influence for a merger of its affiliates in 2015.
Since Samsung chairman Lee Kun-hee suffered a heart attack in 2014, Lee Jae-yong is considered the de facto boss of the group. The merger of the Samsung affiliates was designed to increase his share in the company for a smooth power transfer from his father.
According to a report in the Korean Times, Samsung signed a 22bn won consulting contract with Choi’s company in Germany, Core Sports (renamed Widec Sports), to foster dressage competitors, and provided 3.8bn won. However, the newspaper said that the money was only spent on a single competitor, Choi’s daughter Chung Yoo-ra.
Samsung is also reported as providing 1.6bn won to the Winter Sports Elite Centre established by Choi’s niece Jang Si-ho. In addition, the Group contributed 20.4bn won to the K-sports and Mir foundations controlled by Choi.
While the counsel team stated in the warrant request that Choi was the recipient, it said that the money could be seen as a bribe for the President because Park and Choi shared “economic interests”.
Lee Jae-yong is also accused of committing perjury at the National Assembly’s probe into the scandal, where he said he had not known about Choi before the allegations emerged.
Samsung Group said in a statement: “It is difficult to understand the decision of the counsel team. The group did not, by any means, provide funds [for Choi and her associates] in return for any favours.”
- Image top curtesy of KBS (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qdpz2-KdVMo) [CC BY 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons