​Samsung boss called for questioning over Korean presidential scandal

Samsung Electronics vice chairman Lee Jae-yong has been called in for questioning for Thursday by special prosecutors over bribing allegations involving the South Korean president.
Written by Cho Mu-Hyun, Contributing Writer

Samsung Electronics vice chairman Lee Jae-yong has been summoned by South Korean prosecutors to appear for questioning on Thursday over allegations that the conglomerate bribed the president's friend to get support for a controversial merger.

Lee, the de facto boss of the entire Samsung Group, is expected to face questions on whether he knew Choi Soon-shil -- a friend of President Park Geun-hye -- who has been jailed and faces charges. Lee will also face questions regarding whether Choi used her influence to extract bribes from large businesses and meddle in state affairs, and orchestrated his lieutenants to pay her bribes.

Samsung allegedly paid Choi millions in bribes through a company she owned that was nominally to support her daughter's equestrian career.

Prosecutors believe that the conglomerate paid Choi to use her influence to have the national pension service, the largest stake holder of Samsung C&T, vote in favour of the company merging with another Samsung affiliate, Cheil Industries.

The summoning time is subject to change, prosecutors said, adding that it was negotiating the precise schedule with Samsung.

Lee is the largest shareholder of the newly-formed Samsung C&T, which in turn owns a large stake in Samsung Electronics, tightening his control over the entire conglomerate.

Earlier this week, two senior executives of the conglomerate close to Lee were grilled by investigators for over 15 hours.

In a committee hearing last month by the National Assembly, South Korea's parliament, the vice chairman apologized for Samsung's involvement in the scandal but denied that it knowingly paid bribes.

National Assembly voted to impeach President Park -- whose popularity is below 4 percent -- due to the scandal. The case is now being heard by the Constitutional Court.

In November, prosecutors raided Samsung's office in Seoul twice as part of the investigation.

Lee became an inside director of Samsung Electronics back in October following the Note 7 debacle. He has been in charge of Samsung since his father, chairman Lee Kun-hee, was hospitalized in 2014 following a heart attack.

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