01/16/2017, 13.48
SOUTH KOREA

Samsung’s vice chairman Lee Jae-yong arrested in connection with President Park’s scandal

He is accused of paying bribes to Choi Soon-sil worth more than US$ 36 million US. Prosecutors allege that the group also financed a Choi-owned sports company to the tune of US$ 18.3 million.

Seoul (AsiaNews/Agencies) – Special prosecutors on Monday requested an arrest warrant for Lee Jae-yong, Samsung Group's de facto leader, on charges of bribery, embezzlement and perjury in connection with an influence-peddling scandal that led to President Park Geun-hye's impeachment.

Lee, vice chairman of Samsung Electronics Co., is accused of giving some 43 billion won (US.3 million) worth of bribes to Park's influential friend Choi Soon-sil in return for the state-run pension fund's backing of a merger of two Samsung affiliates.

The South Korean president and her old friend Choi Soon-sil are at the centre of the scandal that has gripped the country in the last few months.

The president’s friend is accused of interfering in the country’s internal and foreign policies and of using her close ties to Park to extort large sums of money from several companies.

On 9 December, the South Korean parliament voted in favour of impeaching the president. Now the Constitutional Court has 180 days to decide whether to remove Park from the presidency.

Samsung signed a 22 billion won (US$ 18.3 million) consulting contract in August 2015 with Widtec Sport, a Germany-based firm owned by the Choi family, to develop South Korea’s equestrian sport ahead of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

The firm also "donated" more than US$ 17 million to two foundations linked to Choi.  It was the largest amount given by any business group to the organisations.

Prosecutors describe the donation as a bribe. The Samsung Group has denied most of the allegations raised during a parliamentary hearing held last month.

The business group has admitted to making contributions to the two foundations and her firm, but denied such contributions were related to the merger.

The Seoul Central District Court will hold a hearing on Wednesday to review the legality of Lee Jae-yong’s detention.

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