S Korea to charge Samsung chief in bribery scandal

Samsung chief Jay Y Lee was arrested two weeks ago in a corruption scandal that led to President Park Geun-hye's impeachment. Samsung is the biggest company in Asia's fourth-largest economy. Prosecutors are also charging four other executives.

Photo by: Reuters
Photo by: Reuters

Samsung Group chief Jay Y Lee arrives at the office of the independent counsel team in Seoul, South Korea, February 19, 2017.

South Korea's special prosecutor's office said on Tuesday it will charge Samsung Group head Jay Y Lee and four other executives with bribery, embezzlement and related offences.

Lee was arrested on February 17 over his alleged role in the corruption scandal involving President Park Geun-hye. The arrest dealt a fresh blow to the technology giant and standard-bearer for Asia's fourth-largest economy.

Prosecutors say Lee gave bribes worth $36 million to Park and her confidante Choi Soon-sil to help win government support for a smooth company leadership transition.

The other executives to be charged are Samsung Group vice chairman Choi Gee-sung, president Chang Choong-ki, and Samsung Electronics Co Ltd president Park Sang-jin and executive vice president Hwang Sung-soo.

"The five executives will face charges including bribery, embezzlement and hiding assets overseas," said Lee Kyu-chul, a spokesman for the special prosecutor, on the last day of its investigation.

Lee will also be charged with committing perjury before parliament, he said.

TRT World's spoke with Adam Reed in Seoul for this update.

Samsung takes measures

Shortly after the prosecutors' announcement, Samsung announced a series of measures to improve its transparency, including dismantling its corporate strategy office, the nerve centre of operations for the sprawling conglomerate.

The corporate strategy office consists of close Lee family aides who worked to help ensure the father-to-son leadership transition.

The office did not exist as a legal entity but wielded enormous power as the instrument of control for the founding Lee family.

Samsung also announced that four of the five executives facing indictment had resigned.

Jay Y. Lee was not among the resignations, suggesting he will keep his position and board membership at Samsung during the court proceedings.

The announcement that Lee will be charged came ahead of a Constitutional Court ruling expected in March on whether to uphold parliament's impeachment of President Park in December.

Park's impeachment was triggered by accusations that she colluded with Choi Soon-sil, the woman at the centre of the scandal, to pressure big businesses, including Samsung, to donate to two foundations set up to back the president's policy initiatives.

Should it uphold the impeachment, the 65-year-old daughter of a former military strongman would become the country's first democratically elected president to be thrown out of office.

Source: 
TRTWorld and agencies