Samsung chief grilled again in South Korean corruption scandal

Samsung Group Vice Chairman Lee Jae-yong was questioned as part of a wider probe into corruption claims that could topple impeached South Korean President Park Geun-hye.

Photo by: Reuters
Photo by: Reuters

Lee Jae-yong has been accused of bribing Park's confidante to the tune of nearly $40 million to gain support for a 2015 merger of two Samsung entities.

Samsung Group leader Lee Jae-yong appeared at the South Korean special prosecutor's office on Monday for questioning as part of a wider investigation into an influence-peddling scandal that could topple President Park Geun-hye.

Lee Jae-yong, Samsung Electronics vice chairman and the son of the Samsung group chairman Lee Kun-hee, has been quizzed multiple times over his role in the scandal that has rocked the nation. 

The special prosecutor has focused on South Korea's biggest conglomerate, accusing Lee Jae-yong in his capacity as Samsung chief of pledging 43 billion won ($37.31 million) to a business and organisations backed by Park's friend, Choi Soon-sil, in exchange for support for a 2015 merger of two Samsung companies. Park has been named as an accomplice in this case and has been accused of letting Choi, who has no title or security clearance, handle a wide range of state affairs including nominations of top officials. 

Earlier on Sunday, the prosecutors probing the scandal said they would question Lee again after discovering additional evidence. 

"I will earnestly tell the truth to the prosecutors today," Lee told reporters Monday morning before meeting with prosecutors. 

TRT World's spoke to Seoul-based journalist Adam Reed for more details. 

Policy favours

The scandal centres on Park's confidante, Choi Soon-sil, who is accused of using her ties to the president to force local firms to "donate" nearly $70 million to two non-profit foundations which Choi allegedly used for personal gain.

Samsung was the single biggest donor to the foundations and is accused of separately giving millions of euros to Choi and her daughter in a bid to secure policy favours from Park in return. 

Lee – who effectively took over the group after his father suffered a heart attack in 2014 – is described as a key figure in the scandal. 

Prosecutors are investigating whether Samsung's payments to Choi were aimed at securing state approval for the controversial merger of two Samsung units – seen as a key step towards ensuring a smooth power transfer to Lee from his father. The merger was opposed by many investors who said it undervalued the shares of one of the firms.

However, it went through after Seoul's state pension fund – a major Samsung shareholder – approved it.

Park, Lee, Choi, and the Samsung Group have all denied bribery accusations.

TRTWorld and agencies