Asia

South Korea seeks arrest of Samsung heir as bribery suspect in political scandal

Kitty Logan reports from London

 

Prosecutors requested the arrest Monday of the de facto head of Samsung, South Korea's biggest company, on bribery and other charges in the influence-peddling scandal that led to the impeachment of the country's president.

Lee Kyu-chul, a spokesman for the special prosecutors investigating the scandal, said that Lee Jae-yong, the 48-year-old Samsung Electronics vice chairman, faces allegations of embezzlement and of lying under oath during a parliamentary hearing in addition to offering bribes.

He said Samsung is suspected of giving 43 billion won ($36 million) to Choi Soon-sil, a long-time friend of the impeached president, Park Geun-hye, while seeking the government's help with a leadership succession within the company to Lee Jae-yong's from his father, who has been hospitalized for over two years.

Part of the money given to Choi allegedly was embezzled by the Samsung vice chairman, the spokesman for the prosecutors said. He declined to disclose the exact amount.

Choi has been jailed and is facing trial for meddling in state affairs.

A Seoul court said it will review the prosecutors' arrest request on Wednesday.

Samsung Electronics is South Korea's biggest and most valuable company. Samsung's Lee has been serving as its de facto head since his father suffered a heart attack in 2014.

Prosecutors also indicted ex-health minister Moon Hyung-pyo on charges he abused his power to compel the national pension fund to support a contentious Samsung merger in 2015. The health ministry oversees the national pension fund and the merger was a crucial step in Samsung's leadership succession.

Lee earlier denied the allegations. Samsung had no comment when asked about the arrest warrant.