A huge scandal in South Korea could lead to the head of the country’s largest conglomerate jailed and the president removed from office. Jay Lee, the 48-year-old chief of the Samsung Group, is accused of participating in payments that Samsung made to a close friend of South Korean President Park Geun-hye in exchange for government support in the company’s succession planning.
Earlier on, on 12 January 2017, the South Korea prosecutor’s office said it would decide “soon” whether to seek an arrest warrant for Jay Y. Lee. Lee was questioned for more than 22 hours for suspicion of illegal activities including bribery in a scandal that consumed President Park Geun-hye.
On 16 January 2017, the prosecutor’s office decided to seek an arrest warrant for Lee. However, the warrant was denied based on a court ruling from 19 January, with the Central District Court Justice Cho Eui-yeon stating that it was “difficult to recognize the need” for his incarceration
On Tuesday, South Korea’s special prosecutor’s office confirmed to reporters that it will once again ask the court for a warrant to arrest Lee. Jay Lee, was questioned for more than 15 hours on Monday and was apparently unable to convince authorities of his innocence, which apparently will lead to his arrest.
“We have filed for an arrest warrant for Vice Chairman Lee Jae-yong and President Park Sang-jin today,” the South Korea special prosecutor’s said in a statement to Reuters. According to authorities, Lee will face charges including bribery, embezzlement and hiding assets overseas. This new arrest warrant will also lump in an additional charge of perjury, though it is currently unclear how Lee allegedly perjured himself.
Samsung once again denied any wrongdoing in a statement to Reuters. “Samsung has absolutely never bribed the president seeking something in return or sought illicit favors,” a Samsung Group spokesperson said. “We will do our best for the truth to be revealed in court.”
Lee Jae-yong, known professionally as Jay Y. Lee, is a South Korean business magnate and the vice chairman of Samsung Group, serving as de facto head. He is the eldest child and only son of Lee Kun-hee, Chairman of Samsung, and is widely considered to be the future successor to his father’s position. He is referred to as the “Crown Prince of Samsung” by the South Korean media, and speaks Korean, English and Japanese. Lee is estimated to be worth US$7.9 billion, making him the third wealthiest person in South Korea.
In 2014, Lee was named the world’s 35th most powerful person and the most powerful Korean by Forbes Magazine’s List of The World’s Most Powerful People along with his father Lee Kun-hee.
Samsung, founded by Lee Byung-chul in 1938, is a South Korean multinational conglomerate company headquartered in Samsung Town, Seoul. Samsung diversified into areas including food processing, textiles, insurance, securities and retail. Samsung entered the electronics industry in the late 1960s and the construction and shipbuilding industries in the mid-1970s.