Thursday, 23 February, 2017

Samsung heir facing South Korea arrest

South Korean investigators again seek arrest of Samsung heir South Korea prosecutors expand charges against Samsung boss
Julia Daniel | 17 February, 2017, 00:46

A Seoul court said on Tuesday it would hold a hearing on the request for arrest warrants at 10:30 a.m. (0130 GMT) on Thursday.

The prosecution suspects Lee to have made $37 million United States dollars in bribes to President Park Geun Hye's friend Choi Soon-Sil in exchange for the backing of a merger between two Samsung groups that would essentially allow the transfer of control of Samsung to Lee Jae Yong.

Park, Choi and Samsung Group have denied the accusations of bribery.

The head of South Korea's largest business conglomerate is facing his second arrest warrant in the bribery case that lead to the impeachment of South Korean President Park Geun-hye in 2016.

Samsung officials, who had vowed to "reveal the truth in the court" before the arrest warrant was granted, expressed serious concerns that a leadership vacuum would make the group's key business decisions hit a standstill. They also are seeking an arrest warrant for Samsung Electronics president Park Sang-jin, who oversees the company's external relations.

The scandal centres on Choi Soon-sil, who is accused of using her close ties with Park to force local firms to "donate" almost $70m to non-profit foundations which Choi allegedly used for personal gain.

The prosecution said it had secured additional evidence and brought more charges against Lee, the group's third-generation leader, in the latest warrant request.

Lee's arrest is likely to put greater public focus on three key executives at the sprawling conglomerate.

Samsung said in a statement on Wednesday it had "not paid bribes nor made improper requests to the president seeking favours".

Samsung, despite its global reach and vast product line, is still technically a "family" company, run with an opaqueness some investors are fighting, and the merger consolidated the Lee family's control.

Last month, a court said there was not enough evidence to justify Lee's arrest at that point.

If Lee is arrested it could deal a serious blow to Samsung, the world's biggest maker of smartphones, memory chips and flat-screen televisions, potentially hampering strategic decision-making such as new investments and acquisitions. Choi, despite having no government office, has been accused of everything from leaking classified documents to forcing a college to change its admissions criteria so her daughter could attend.

Earlier this month, prosecutors searched the offices of the antitrust agency, the Korea Fair Trade Commission, and financial regulator, the Financial Services Commission, as part of their investigation of Samsung Group.

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