South Korea prosecutors expand charges against Samsung boss

Camille RiveraFeb 17 , 2017

South Korea's special prosecutor's office said on Wednesday it had expanded charges against Lee to include hiding the proceeds of a criminal act, as well as bribery, embezzlement, hiding assets overseas and perjury.

The investigation has focused on Samsung's ties with Park as prosecutors accused Lee of allegedly paying bribes totaling 43 billion won (US$37.8 million) to two foundations set up by Park's longtime friend, Choi Soon-sil.

Lee, the son of the Samsung group boss Lee Kun-Hee, has been quizzed several times over his alleged role in the scandal that has rocked the nation.

South Korean prosecutors are attempting for a second time to arrest Samsung's de facto leader, who is being investigated on bribery allegations in connection with a massive political scandal. But underneath the consumer goods a scandal has been brewing, and it has now engulfed the company's vice chairman and heir apparent, Jay Y. Lee.

Park is suspended from duty but is still protected by her position pending a final ruling on her impeachment by the Constitutional Court.

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After an hours-long hearing, Lee and Park are expected to await the court's decision in a detention centre.

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

They are also seeking the arrest of the president of Samsung Electronics Co Ltd, Park Sang-jin, who also heads the Korea Equestrian Federation and attended Thursday's hearing with Lee.

In rejecting the first attempt to arrest Lee last month, the court cited a lack of evidence.

But prosecutors on Tuesday made a second bid for his arrest, saying they had collected more evidence in recent weeks.

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Lee is accused of giving bribes worth $36 million to Geun-hye and an associate to win government favors.

His arrest is likely to send shock waves through the group, which is a major part of the South Korean economy.

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

With more than three decades at Samsung, Choi has been deeply involved in preparing a plan for Jay Y. Lee to assume control of the group from his father, who was incapacitated by a 2014 heart attack.

When the merger of Cheil Industries Inc. and Samsung C&T Corp. was originally proposed, shareholders including activist investor Paul Elliott Singer fought against it, arguing the purchase price was too low and would cement the founding family's control at the expense of minority shareholders.

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Prosecutors are investigating whether Samsung had paid Choi to secure state approval for the controversial merger of two Samsung units seen as a key step towards ensuring a smooth power transfer to Lee.

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