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S Korea scandal: Samsung chief a suspect

Published : Wednesday, 11 January, 2017 at 2:07 PM Count : 165
Observer Online Desk

Samsung heir-apparent Lee Jae-yong is to be interviewed as a suspect in a corruption scandal surrounding the impeached South Korean president.

The firm is accused of giving donations to non-profit foundations operated by Choi Soon-sil, a confidante of President Park Geun-hye.

The donations were allegedly made in exchange for political support of a controversial merger.

Mr Lee will face special prosecutors on Thursday, officials said.

Samsung declined to comment.

Mr Lee is currently vice-president of Samsung Electronics. But since his father, Lee Kun-hee, suffered a heart attack in 2014, he is considered de facto boss of the entire Samsung Group conglomerate.

Politicians voted on 9 December to impeach President Park over the scandal - a decision South Korea's constitutional court has six months to uphold or overturn. Until then she remains formally president but stripped of her powers, which are handed to the prime minister, a presidential appointee.

The claims circle around a merger between the electronics giant's construction arm, Samsung C&T, and an affiliate firm, Cheil Industries.

Prosecutors allege that Samsung gave €2.8m euros ($3.1m; £2.5m) to a company co-owned by Ms Choi and her daughter, in return for Ms Park's support for the deal.

Lee Jae-yong has already given evidence to politicians over the scandal, but this is the first time he will be quizzed as a suspect by investigators.

At the parliamentary hearing in December Samsung admitted giving a total of 20.4bn won (£16m; $17.46m) to the two foundations, but denied seeking favours.

And Mr Lee also confirmed the firm gave a horse and money to help the equestrian career of Ms Choi's daughter, Chung Yoo-ra, something he said he now regretted.

Earlier this week two other Samsung executives were interviewed by the special prosecutors, but were treated as witnesses rather than suspects.

Ms Park denies wrongdoing but has apologised for the way she managed her relationship with Ms Choi, who also denies committing criminal offences.

Ms Choi has been charged with coercion and attempted fraud.

BBC/LY





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