​Samsung chief awaits arrest warrant result after court hearing

The court will decide on whether to arrest Samsung boss Lee Jae-yong, who faces bribery charges over his alleged role in a national corruption scandal pending trial.
Written by Cho Mu-Hyun, Contributing Writer

A South Korean court has begun its hearing on Wednesday to decide whether to arrest Samsung Electronics vice chairman Lee Jae-yong for his alleged role in a national corruption scandal involving the president.

The leader of the nation's largest conglomerate entered the Seoul Central District Court early morning, which was flooded my hundreds of journalists and protesters, without comment to attend the hearing.

Special prosecutors on Monday filed for the arrest warrant for Lee for bribery, embezzlement, and perjury charges.

A judge will now decide whether he will be jailed pending trial, after hearing legal arguments from both sides.

Lee faces embezzlement under the special economic crime law, due to the amount of the alleged bribe of $40 million. Under ordinary law of embezzlement, the maximum sentence is five years.

But under special economic crime law the minimum sentence is five years, effectively ending the 48-year-old's chance for a suspended sentence as only sentencing of four years or less is eligible for suspensions.

Lee was grilled for over 22 hours last week on Friday and denied the charges.

Prosecutors believe he orchestrated bribes paid to Choi Soon-shil, a close friend to the now impeached President Park Guen-hye, to gain government support in a controversial merger between two of the conglomerate's affiliates.

Samsung has argued that the request for the arrest warrant was difficult to understand and was unjustified where there was good ground for legal arguments, and that it could hurt its business and the national economy.

But special prosecutors, on their decision to proceed, said that the national economy was important but "justice more so".

Samsung Group accounts for a fifth of South Korea's economy, which relies on exports.

Lee has been the de facto boss of the entire business group since his father Lee Kun-hee was hospitalized following a heart attack in 2014.

He was made inside director of Samsung Electronics last year.

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