Samsung boss arrested in Korean bribery scandal

Samsung chief Lee Jae-yong has been arrested following special prosecutors' second request to jail him on charges of bribery, embezzlement, and perjury as part of the Korean political scandal.
Written by Cho Mu-Hyun, Contributing Writer

A South Korean court has approved the arrest warrant for Samsung boss Lee Jae-yong filed by special prosecutors on charges of bribery, embezzlement, and perjury as part of the national political scandal involving the president.

Lee was jailed early morning Friday and will remain in detention pending trial. It was the second such request by investigators -- the first last month was rejected on grounds of lack of reasoning -- and follows his 15-hour interrogation on Monday.

The court said new evidence was added since the first request, justifying the arrest of the Samsung Electronics vice chairman.

The 48-year-old is alleged to have known about or orchestrated Samsung Electronics paying Choi Soon-sil, a close friend of President Park Geun-hye, over $30 million in bribes to gain government support for a merger of two companies of the business group.

An arrest warrant for Park Sang-jin, a Samsung executive who also faced arrest for allegedly being the one paying Choi, was rejected "considering his role, position, and authority", implying he was just following Lee's orders.

Samsung declined to comment. The South Korean tech giant has consistently denied wrongdoing, saying it was coerced by Park, who was impeached after the scandal broke.

The arrest of Lee was seen as a crucial step for the prosecutors in charging President Park with bribery, as they can now attempt to establish her and her friend as the main beneficiary.

At a national committee hearing looking into the scandal last year, Lee said he didn't know Choi under oath, which investigators believe is a lie.

The special prosecution was due to end at the end of the month, but an extension request has been put to the national assembly to arrest Park, which will likely be granted. The president's impeachment trial is expected to end early March, and if she is proven guilty, she will become a civilian liable for criminal charges.

Lee has become the first Samsung boss to be arrested. His grandfather and founder of Samsung Group Lee Byung-chul faced smuggling charges in 1966 but his son was jailed instead of him. Lee Jae-yong's father Lee Kun-hee was charged twice for bribery in 1995 and 2008 but faced trial without being jailed and received suspended sentences, which were later pardoned.

Lee Jae-yong has been the de facto boss of the entire Samsung business group since 2014 when his father was hospitalized following a heart attack. He was named inside director of Samsung Electronics last year.

Editorial standards