Samsung chief faces arrest over bribery charges

  • 16/01/2017
Samsung Group leader Jay Y Lee (Reuters)
Samsung Group leader Jay Y Lee (Reuters)

South Korea's special prosecutor's office says it will decide whether to seek an arrest warrant against Samsung Group leader Jay Y Lee on Monday.

Spokesman for the special prosecutor Lee Kyu-chul told reporters during a briefing, investigators will also decide whether to seek arrest warrants against other Samsung Group executives at the same time as it makes a decision on Mr Lee, named a suspect in an investigation into whether the country's top conglomerate paid bribes to pave the way for a 2015 merger of two affiliates.

"We are considering all factors and will make a determination based on the law and principles," he told reporters.

Prosecutors have been investigating whether Samsung provided 30 billion won (NZ$35.8 million) to a business and foundations backed by President Park Geun-hye's friend, Choi Soon-sil, in exchange for the national pension fund's support for a 2015 merger of two Samsung affiliates.

The Samsung chief denied bribery accusations during a parliamentary hearing in December.

Taking into account the economic impact could prove beneficial to the 48-year-old Samsung boss. The imposition of less severe punishment on erring business leaders to avoid negative economic consequences has precedent in South Korea.

"Law and principle are the most important metric, and after also considering various factors mentioned previously, we will decide by law and principle," a prosecution spokesman said, referring to economic impact, without elaborating.

Samsung's Mr Lee was questioned for 22 hours before leaving the special prosecutors' office in Seoul on Friday morning as part of the investigation into a corruption scandal that has led to President Park's impeachment by parliament.

Establishing a money-for-favour exchange between Samsung and Ms Park or her surrogate is critical for the special prosecutor's investigation, analysts say.