Other South Korean top conglomerates are on high alert on Friday after a court eventually endorsed pretrial arrest for Samsung Group’s heir Jay Y. Lee over his alleged role in a graft scandal that led to the impeachment of President Park Geun-hye.
Special prosecutors probing the scandal under a Feb. 28 deadline are now asking for an extension for the investigation, which might be expanded to other conglomerates that also provided funds to the Mi-R and K-Sports foundations. The two foundations were run by Choi Soon-sil, Park’s friend in trial for broad power abuse.
SK and CJ are suspected to have provided funds in return for a presidential pardon for imprisoned chairmen. Lotte is also suspected of donating its money in return for a new permit for its duty-free shop business.
Samsung’s 20.4 billion won ($18 million) donation to the foundations was newly recognized by the court as part of bribery charges filed by prosecutors. Samsung and 52 other business groups offered a total of 77.4 billion won to the two foundations.
Former presidential secretary for policy coordination Ahn Jong-beom, who is accused of pressuring companies to donate money, told prosecutors that he had informed the group of the president’s plan to include SK Group Chairman Chey Tae-won in the pardon list. SK denied of any connection with its donation and the pardon that was made in Aug. 2015.
CJ is also worried that any connections would be made to CJ Chairman Lee Jay-hyun who was pardoned earlier for health reasons.
An unnamed Lotte official said the duty-free shop permit has nothing to do with the donation and that the timing was totally mismatched. Lotte Group donated 1.7 billion won from Lotte Chemical and 2.8 billion won from Lotte Duty Free Shop to the two foundations through the Federation of Korean Industries, a lobbying group for big businesses.
By Kim Jung-hwan
[ⓒ Pulse by Maeil Business News Korea & mk.co.kr, All rights reserved]