Published: Wed, February 15, 2017
Technology | By Tonya May

Independent counsel interrogating Samsung heir apparent on bribery allegations

New reports claim that the investigation team has reached a decision and that an arrest warrant will be sought for the Samsung heir, Lee Jae-yong. Both have been linked with now impeached South Korean president, Park Geun-hye and their charges could aid the mounting case against her.

The 48-year-old will be summoned again Monday morning, said a spokesman for the special team of prosecutors probing the affair.

Two other executives of Samsung, the country's largest conglomerate, would also be questioned today, he said.

Lee arrived at the prosecution office in southern Seoul early on Monday in a black sedan, dressed in a dark blue suit and tie and flanked by Samsung Group officials and his lawyer.

Lee, who became the de-facto leader of the Samsung Group in 2014, allegedly paid bribes of more than £30 million in return for business favours to Choi-Soon-sil, a long term friend of the now impeached president. After this latest round of questioning wrapped up, the prosecutors were still undecided if they would once again request a warrant for the billionaire's arrest.

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The Justice Department is nearly certain to appeal, and the case is likely to make its way to the U.S. The Seattle judge, responding to a challenge by Washington state, suspended the order last Friday.

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

If Lee becomes arrested, this will represent a low blow for Samsung, the global leader in the electronic market, mostly because it will interfere with some powerful investment and acquisition projects. The prosecution said that it would reveal details at a press briefing on Wednesday.

The prosecutor's request to arrest Mr Lee was rejected by a court in Seoul on Jan 19.

The investigators are also reportedly looking at whether South Korea's fair trade commission gave any favors to Samsung related to a complex cross-shareholding structure that allows the Lee family to exert an outsized influence on Samsung Electronics and its dozens of affiliates, while holding a small stake. The spokesman added this would have to happen this week, since the independent counsel has only until February 28 to investigate the massive corruption scandal that has brought down Park.

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