A South Korean court denied an arrest warrant for Samsung heir Jay Y. Lee, ruling there was currently insufficient evidence to detain Lee. The attempt to arrest Lee is the latest development in a months-long corruption scandal involving a dressage horse, a Rasputin-reminiscent cult leader, million-protester marches, and South Korean president Park Geun-hye’s eventual impeachment.
The scandal recently led authorities to issue an arrest warrant for Samsung electronics vice chairman Lee. Mr. Lee is the only son of Samsung’s incapacitated chairman, Lee Kun-hee, and is considered the de facto head of Samsung as a whole. The arrest warrant related to Lee allegedly directing Samsung company money to President Park’s secret confidant in hopes of currying favor with the administration. Samsung revenues account for 17% of South Korea’s GDP, and Samsung electronics accounts for 20% of all South Korean exports.
Prosecutors alleged Lee directed $36 million in such payments to President Park’s friend, Choi Soon-sil, and two charitable foundations she controlled, in return for government support in a father-to-son transfer of ownership in Samsung. Special prosecutor Park Young-soo said Lee not only paid bribes on behalf of Samsung, but also embezzled some of the bribe money from his companies. Police questioned Lee last week, and he issued a public apology for not putting Samsung’s best face forward. The company, however, has denied the allegations.
“We have enough evidence to establish President Park and Choi Soon-sil as co-conspirators sharing profits” in the bribery scheme, Lee Kyu-chul, a spokesman of the special prosecutor, said during a news briefing earlier this week. Despite the court’s denial, the bribery investigation into Samsung, and South Korea’s attempts to fight corruption within family-controlled conglomerates known as chaebol, continue.
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