South Korean investigators seek arrest of Samsung heir again

Both Samsung executives are being investigated on charges of bribery offering, embezzlement and hiding assets overseas.

Lee's role in the scandal is that he paid bribes to Choi and Park's foundations so that a merger, between Cheil Industries, the holding company for the Lee family, and Samsung's construction company Samsung C&T would be allowed to go through without objection.

SEOUL, Feb 15 South Korea's special prosecutor's office said on Wednesday it had expanded charges against Samsung Group chief Jay Y. Lee to include hiding the proceeds of a criminal act before it made a decision to seek a warrant for his arrest for a second time. Prosecutors are seeking an arrest warrant for Lee for the second time in a month. It is fairly likely that Jay will get an automatic get out of jail free card even if he is convicted.

Previously CEO of Samsung Electronics, Choi created the role of chief operating officer in 2010, and appointed Jay Y. Lee to that post.

Park is suspended from duty but is still protected by her position pending a final ruling on her impeachment by the Constitutional Court.

The court's rejection of the prosecutors' first request to arrest Lee in January was announced more than 10 hours after the hearing ended.

They have also requested an arrest warrant for Samsung Electronics Co Ltd President Park Sang-jin, who was also questioned on Monday.

An earlier request for an arrest warrant had been denied, but the charges against Lee have expanded since then. An approval would also help bring bribery charges against President Park. Lee is being investigated on an additional charge of perjury, the prosecution office said without elaborating.

The Samsung probe is part of a broader investigation into contributions that dozens of Korean companies gave to Choi Soon-sil, a confidante of Park.

Samsung has "never" offered bribes to the president expecting something in return nor has it sought wrongful favors, the company said.

The merger was opposed by many minority shareholders, who said the deal would hurt them while unfairly benefiting Lee and other members of Samsung's founding family.

The special prosecution office is also reportedly looking into whether the value of Samsung Biologics, which went public previous year, was overpriced to benefit the Samsung founding family and also whether the fair trade commission gave any favors to Samsung in relation to its complex cross shareholding structure, which allows the Lee family to control the sprawling businesses with only a minority stake. Its offices have been raided several times on suspicion that the presidential office influenced the decision by South Korea's state-run pension fund to back Samsung's merger plan past year.

  • Elsie Buchanan