South Korean prosecutors requested an arrest warrant for Samsung Group heir-apparent Lee Jae-yong on Monday in relation to the massive corruption scandal that led to President Park Geun-hye’s impeachment last month.
Lee, son of the Samsung Group Chairman Lee Kun-hee, is facing accusations of bribery, embezzlement and perjury in connection with an influence-peddling scandal that involved the president's close aide Choi Soon-sil. The vice chairman of Samsung Electronics has been accused of giving almost 43 billion won ($36.3 million) worth of bribes to Park’s jailed friend Choi.
South Korea’s largest business group has agreed that it made contributions to two foundations as well as a consulting firm linked to Choi but at a December parliament hearing, Lee denied that Samsung paid bribes to go through with the contested merger of two of the company’s subsidiaries in 2015.
Lee’s arrest could lead to a leadership vacuum for Samsung, which is currently facing massive recalls for its Galaxy Note 7 smartphone, and cause difficulty for the company whose revenues are worth about a fifth of South Korea’s GDP, according to Al Jazeera.
“In seeking the warrant, the investigation team concluded that establishing justice was more important than the possible impact it (the arrest) could have on the national economy,” a spokesman for the prosecutors said, according to the Yonhap News Agency.
Lee’s arrest warrant must be approved by a South Korean court for the specially appointed prosecutors to continue their investigation while the Samsung scion is detained. Following this, formal charges and an indictment will be made. The Seoul Central District Court will hold a hearing Wednesday to evaluate the legality of the possible arrest.
The team of prosecutors has decided to carry out the investigation into three other senior Samsung executives, including Choi Gee-sung, a vice chairman at the company. These inquiries will, however, be made without detention.