Samsung scion Lee faces court hearing on arrest warrant

Reuters News
|
Posted: Jan 17, 2017 4:03 PM

SEOUL (Reuters) - Jay Y. Lee, the 48-year-old leader of the Samsung Group, is due to appear at a court hearing on Wednesday when a judge will decide whether to issue an arrest warrant over his alleged role in a corruption scandal that has rocked South Korea.

A special prosecutor on Monday said it would seek a warrant to arrest the third-generation leader of the country's largest conglomerate on suspicion of bribery, embezzlement and perjury.

Lee, questioned last week for 22 straight hours at the prosecutor's office in Seoul, has denied wrongdoing.

The influence-peddling scandal led parliament last month to impeach President Park Geun-hye, a decision that if upheld by the Constitutional Court will see her become the country's first democratically-elected leader forced from office early.

Park, 64, has denied wrongdoing.

The hearing is scheduled to begin at 10:30 a.m. (8.30 p.m. ET), and it is possible that the judge's decision may not be announced until after midnight, a court official told Reuters on Tuesday.

The special prosecutor has accused Lee of paying bribes totaling 43 billion won ($36.70 million) to organizations linked to Choi Soon-sil, a friend of the president who is at the center of the scandal, to secure the 2015 merger of two affiliates and cement his control of the family business.

Earlier this week, the special prosecutor indicted the chairman of the National Pension Service (NPS), the world's third-largest pension fund, on charges of abuse of power and giving false testimony.

NPS chairman Moon Hyung-pyo was arrested in December after acknowledging ordering it to support the controversial $8 billion merger in 2015 of two Samsung Group [SAGR.UL] affiliates while heading the health ministry, which oversees the NPS.

Jay Y. Lee became the group's de facto leader after his father, Lee Kun-hee, was incapacitated by a 2014 heart attack.

On Tuesday, the special prosecutor's office said it did not seek arrest warrants for three other Samsung Group executives that also underwent questioning, in order to minimize the impact on Samsung business.

The group's flagship, Samsung Electronics, is the world's biggest maker of smartphones, flatscreen TVs and memory chips.

(Reporting by Ju-min Park and Se Young Lee; Writing by Tony Munroe; Editing by Nick Macfie)