South Korean special prosecutors on Tuesday branded impeached President Park Geun-hye as a criminal suspect for bribery charge in collusions with her longtime confidante Choi Soon-sil, who is at the center of the corruption scandal.
The prosecutors, who have been independently dedicated to investigations into the scandal for the past 70 days, also planned to indict Samsung Electronics Vice Chairman Lee Jae-yong and four Samsung executives later in the day on multiple charges, including bribery.
Lee Kyu-chul, spokesman of the independent counsel team that kicked off investigations on Dec. 21, told the last regular press briefing that Choi Soon-sil will be indicted on bribery as well as charges of abuse of power and the concealment of illegal wealth earned through criminal acts.
The impeached leader will be booked as an accomplice to Choi for the graft charge. The case will be handed over to state prosecutors for further investigations.
By law, a South Korean president gets immune from criminal indictment and detention while in office. If the bill to impeach President Park is upheld by the constitutional court, she will be stripped of those immunities.
The Samsung heir, who has been taken into custody since Feb. 17, will be prosecuted for bribery, embezzlement and the concealment of illegally earned wealth. Four other Samsung executives will be indicted without detention.
Vice Chairman Lee is suspected of paying tens of millions of U.S. dollars in bribes to Choi in exchange for getting support in the controversial merger in 2015 of two Samsung affiliate to create a de-facto holding company.
The merger between Samsung C&T and Cheil Industries was extremely crucial to the vice chairman to inherit the overall management control of Samsung Group, South Korea’s largest family-controlled conglomerate, from his father Chairman Lee Kun-hee who has been hospitalized for heart attack for almost three years.
Investigations by the special prosecutors are scheduled to end on Tuesday as Prime Minister Hwang Kyo-ahn, who is serving as acting president, rejected the request for an extended probe into the corruption scandal.
The spokesman said the overall investigation results will be formally announced on March 6. Enditem