Jay Y. Lee, the de facto leader of Samsung Group, headed for detention center early Friday after the court endorsed the second arrest pursuit from independent counsel that came with additional criminal charges on top of bribery associated with President Park Geun-hye and her friend Choi Soon-sil in return for support for smooth hereditary succession at Korea’s biggest corporate empire.
Lee’s arrest could shape the ongoing trial of Choi and upcoming Constitutional Court’s trial determining legitimacy of legislative impeachment on Park as it gives validity to bribery charges among the three.
Shares of Samsung Electronics, where Lee is the vice chairman, opened Friday weak from overnight news amid concerns about the world’s top technology company and the country’s largest conglomerate running over the third generation by the Lee family and generating annual revenue of over 300 trillion won ($262 billion) being headless for the first time in its corporate history. They closed Friday at 1,893,000 won, down 0.42 percent or 8,000 won from the previous session.
Lee has been running the conglomerate on behalf of his father Lee Kun-hee, who has been bedridden since 2014. Both his father and grandfather who founded Samsung had been convicted but avoided time in the prison.
The court that struck down arrest request for Lee a month ago took more than seven hours to review the new evidence and agreed that they support “the rationale and support” for pretrial custody.
Lee faces five criminal charges - bribery, embezzlement, illicit offshore money wiring, criminal proceeds, and perjury.
The court rejected the request to detain Samsung Electronics President Park Sang-jin.
Lee would be confined to a detention center in Uiwang, south of Seoul, where Choi and aides of Park are imprisoned, while his trial proceeds.
Prosecutors have argued Lee has handed over corporate funds on multiple times in return for the president’s promise to back the 2015 merger of two Samsung companies pivotal to legitimize his hold over the group. The heir admitted that he contributed to nonprofit foundations of Choi and her Germany-based firm at the request of Park but denied having any connections attached.
By Lee Hyun-jung
[ⓒ Pulse by Maeil Business News Korea & mk.co.kr, All rights reserved]