South Korean prosecutors have started investigating allegations that ailing Samsung Group chairman Lee Kun-hee bought sex from prostitutes several times between 2011 and 2013.

An official from the Seoul Central District Prosecutors' Office said Wednesday the case is being handled by a division specializing in crimes against women and children. He refused to be named, citing office rules.

The allegations were raised last week after internet news outlet Newstapa released footage purportedly showing a man who appeared to be Lee interacting with women who might have been prostitutes on several occasions.

Samsung says it has no comment.

Selling or buying sex is a crime punishable by up to a year in prison or a fine of 3 million won ($2,600) in South Korea.