​Samsung chief grilled for 22 hours as suspect in Korean presidential scandal

Samsung heir-apparent Lee Jae-yong was questioned by South Korean investigators as part of the national scandal involving the president.
Written by Cho Mu-Hyun, Contributing Writer

The boss of Samsung Group has been quizzed by South Korean prosecutors for 22 hours over allegations that the conglomerate bribed the president's friend to gain government favors for a controversial merger.

Lee Jae-yong, the vice chairman of Samsung Electronics, who was summoned Thursday, was questioned over his role in payments given to jailed Choi Soon-shil, a close friend of President Park Geun-hye.

Prosecutors believe that the conglomerate paid Choi to use her influence to have the national pension service, the largest stakeholder of Samsung C&T, vote in favour of the company merging with another Samsung affiliate, Cheil Industries. The merger allegedly allowed Lee to gain a firmer grip over Samsung Electronics.

The payment, in the millions, was paid through Samsung Electronics to Choi's sports agency firm in Germany, it has been alleged.

On Thursday, the national committee overseeing the scandal also accused the vice chairman of lying under oath, and filed a criminal suit against him for perjury.

Released early morning on Friday, Lee faces bribery, embezzlement, and perjury charges, which he denied during questioning.

The prosecution will now decide whether to jail him pending trial.

Last month, the Samsung boss appeared in a committee hearing, denying that the firm knowingly paid Choi bribes and saying he did not know her personally.

In November, prosecutors raided the South Korean company's office twice as part of the investigation.

Lee Jae-yong, also known as JY Lee, has been the de facto boss of the entire Samsung Group since his father Lee Kun-hee was hospitalized in 2014 after a heart attack.

He was named insider director of Samsung Electronics in October and has been deeply involved in the operations of the group's crown jewel.

Back in 2008, he was called in as a suspect over Samsung's bribery scandal involving his father but released without charge.

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