Prosecutors Delay Decision on Arrest Warrant for Samsung’s LeeBy and
Samsung vice chairman had been questioned for 22 hours
Decision on warrants for Lee, 3 executives to be made Monday
Prosecutors questioned Samsung’s heir apparent for 22 hours and quizzed three other company executives during the past week. Investigators had said Lee, 48, was a suspect for alleged bribery and that the charges could be widened to include allegations of embezzlement and breach of duty. The scion of Korea’s richest family denied any wrongdoing. Prosecutors, who had said earlier they expected to decide over the weekend on issuing arrest warrants, announced Sunday the decision on all four would be delayed until Monday.
“We’ve been reviewing all the testimony and material from individuals questioned so far and studying prudently related legal principles for the Lee case,” Lee Kyu-chul, a spokesman for the special prosecutor, said in a televised briefing. “Given that the case is complex and significant, we aim to reach a conclusion” by 2:30 p.m. Monday “at the latest.”
South Korea has been gripped by a broader political scandal for months, with millions taking to the streets to demand the ouster of President Park Geun-hye. Park has been already impeached and her powers suspended.
“What the special prosecutor is really concerned about is not whether or not it will arrest Lee; it is what allegations it will put on him,” said Chung Sun-sup, who runs corporate researcher Chaebul.com. “Charging Lee with bribery has meaning mostly because it can serve as an important link to charge President Park with bribery. They are being extra careful because if they can’t prove Lee’s bribery allegations, the arrest will be rejected by the court.”
Lawmakers questioned the heads of nine chaebol business groups over whether they were pressured to give money to foundations controlled by presidential confidant Choi Soon-sil. In recent weeks, investigators had focused on Samsung and whether the company made payments to gain the backing of Korea’s national pension fund for a controversial merger between Samsung affiliates in 2015.
Special prosecutors indicated that they’re planning to widen the probe to other Korean companies. In November, investigators searched the headquarters of Lotte Group and SK Group, seeking evidence of whether they donated money to foundations controlled by Choi in return for duty-free business licenses. The chairmen of SK and Lotte denied any wrongdoings at parliamentary hearings.
Affiliates of SK and Lotte lost their duty-free licenses in Seoul in November 2015. A few months later, the Korea Customs Service announced a plan to hand out four additional licenses for duty-free stores. Both companies applied for the licenses in October, though only Lotte has received one.
— With assistance by Sohee Kim