South Korean prosecutors seeking arrest warrant for Samsung chief

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 14 February, 2017, 3:05pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 14 February, 2017, 10:47pm

South Korean special prosecutor’s office said on Tuesday it is seeking an arrest warrant for Samsung Group leader Jay Y. Lee as part of its investigation into a graft scandal that could topple President Park Geun-hye.

The special prosecution said it would also seek an arrest warrants for Samsung Electronics President Park Sang-jin. It did not elaborate or say what charges it planned to bring against the two executives.

Lee, third-generation leader of the country’s top conglomerate, was questioned for more than 15 hours after being summoned by the special prosecution on Monday.

He is accused of pledging payments to a company and organisations backed by Park’s confidant, Choi Soon-sil, to win support for a 2015 merger of two Samsung affiliates.

The office said it would seek arrest warrants for three other Samsung Group executives identified as suspects in its investigation.

Park was impeached by parliament in December after accusations that she colluded with her long-time friend, Choi, to pressure big businesses to donate to two foundations set up to back the president’s policy initiatives.

Both women deny wrongdoing.

Park, 65, and the daughter of a former military ruler, remains in office but has been stripped of her powers while the Constitutional Court decides whether to uphold the impeachment.

If the court rules to uphold the impeachment vote, Park would be South Korea’s first elected leader to be forced from office and a presidential election would be held.

The special prosecutor has focused on Samsung Group’s relationship with Park, accusing Lee in his capacity as Samsung chief of pledging 43 billion won (US$37 million) to win support for the 2015 merger of Samsung C&T Corp and Cheil Industries Inc.

Lee, 48, has denied wrongdoing.

Last month, a court rejected the prosecution’s first request for an arrest warrant for the Samsung chief. The office on Tuesday declined to comment on whether it had any new evidence against him or other Samsung executives.

Proving illicit dealings between Park, or those linked to her, and the Samsung Group is critical for the special prosecutor’s case that ultimately targets Park, analysts have said.

Prosecution spokesman Lee said the office had told parliament it needed to extend the investigation period. The office can seek a 30-day extension to its current deadline of February 28.

The office of acting president Hwang Kyo-ahn, who must sign off on any such extension, could not be immediately reached for comment.