A South Korean court on Friday held the first trial on Samsung heir over bribery charge involving impeached President Park Geun-hye and her longtime confidante Choi Soon-sil.
The grim-faced Lee attended his first trial as a criminal suspect together with senior executives of Samsung Group, the biggest family-controlled conglomerate of South Korea.
Lee is charged with donating tens of millions of U.S. dollars to two nonprofit foundations controlled by Choi, who is at the center of the corruption scandal embroiling former President Park.
Choi and Park, who are now in custody, have been identified by prosecutors as accomplices. Park was impeached on March 10 and taken into custody three weeks later.
Samsung’s donation to the Choi-controlled foundations is suspected of being made in return for getting support in the merger of two Samsung affiliates in July 2015.
The merger between Samsung C&T and Cheil Industries was extremely important to the Samsung heir apparent to inherit management control from his ailing father Chairman Lee Kun-hee who has been hospitalized for almost three years.
Samsung also provided financial assistance for an equestrian training of Choi’s daughter, while offering millions of euros to a German company owned by Choi.
Lee’s legal team has claimed no quid pro quo in the donations, saying the bribery charge was based on bias and guesswork. Enditem