A South Korean court on Friday issued an arrest warrant for the heir apparent of Samsung Group, the country’s largest family-controlled conglomerate, on bribery charges linked to the corruption scandal that led to the impeachment of President Park Geun-hye.
A judge at the Seoul Central District Court said there is enough justification to issue the warrant for Samsung Electronics Vice Chairman Lee Jae-yong given the newly added charges and the newly collected evidences.
The princeling of the South Korea’s richest family faced an immediate incarceration at a detention center south of Seoul, where he had been waiting for the announcement made at about 5:40 a.m. local time.
The arrest of the Samsung heir would help build a bribery case against President Park.
The third-generation Samsung heir was eventually detained in the second attempt by prosecutors independently investigating the scandal that could topple the impeached leader. President Park is awaiting the constitutional court’s ruling on the impeachment motion that is forecast to be made before the middle of March.
Lee Jae-yong became the first head of the most powerful South Korean business empire to be arrested in its 79-year history. Samsung was set up in March 1938.
His father Lee Kun-hee, the second-generation chief, was convicted twice on bribery and tax evasion in 1996 and 2008, but he received suspended prison terms. He was pardoned by the country’s presidents both times.
Samsung’s founder Lee Byung-chul was not punished though he was investigated in 1996 for smuggling charges.
The independent counsel team made its first request to arrest Vice Chairman Lee, which was denied on Jan. 19 by the Seoul court for lack of evidence. At the time, it was sought on charges of bribery, embezzlement and perjury.
The special prosecutors had since raided the offices of the country’s anti-trust body and the financial regulator to collect more evidences, while summoning and questioning relevant witnesses and suspects.
This time around, two charges were added to the Samsung heir, including hiding assets overseas and concealing the proceeds of criminal acts.
Lee was charged with paying 43.3 billion won (38 million U.S. dollars) in bribes to President Park’s longtime friend Choi Soon-sil, who is at the center of the influence-peddling scandal and now is in custody, in return for political favors in the controversial 2015 merger of two Samsung units seen as crucial to the power transfer.
The merger of Samsung C&T and Cheil Industries was extremely crucial to the Samsung’s third-generation leader to inherit the management control from his father Lee Kun-hee who was incapacitated in 2014 for heart attack.
Meanwhile, the warrant to detain Samsung Electronics President Park Sang-jin, who serves as head of the Korea Equestrian Federation, was denied for his limited authority, position and role in the case.
Samsung was the biggest donor to two nonprofit foundations, which Choi allegedly controlled for personal gains. As President Park was branded as an accomplice to Choi, bribing Choi could be equivalent to bribing the scandal-scarred president.
The company also signed a contract worth tens of millions of dollars with a German company owned by Choi and her daughter to finance the daughter’s equestrian training in the European country.
The Samsung vice chairman was also accused of lying under oath during a December parliamentary hearing over the presidential scandal. Enditem