January 11, 2017
Samsung’s top boss is a suspect in the corruption scandal that led to talk of impeachment for South Korean President Park Geun-hye, the special prosecutor investigating the matter has announced.
Jay Y. Lee, who took over in September as Samsung’s chief, officially replacing his ailing father, will be brought in Thursday for questioning as a bribery suspect, according to a New York Times report. Lee, who is also a Samsung board member, will be investigated on suspicion of perjury as well.
Although neither Samsung or Lee himself would comment on the matter, it is expected that Lee will be asked to account for the multimillion-dollar donations Samsung made to two foundations controlled by Choi Soon-sil, a friend of the president. Lee will be questioned about his involvement, if any, in giving the money — money that the special prosecutor believes to be bribes.
It is being alleged Park aided Choi in extorting millions of dollars from Samsung and other companies. The belief that the president was involved caused the National Assembly’s to vote for her impeachment last month. Park is now on trial at the Constitutional Court to decide if her presidency should be terminated.
Lee testified at a National Assembly hearing last month, saying he was not involved in the decision to give money to Choi. He hinted that the donations were not voluntary, meaning Samsung was a victim of extortion and did not, in fact, pay bribes in exchange for political favors.
The special prosecutor’s office, however, announced it has evidence of Lee’s involvement, saying he had “received a request for bribery from the president and ordered Samsung subsidiaries to send bribes to destinations designated by the president.”
If Lee is implicated, it will make difficult his succession as the new chairman of Samsung — a plan that has been in the works since his father’s heart attack back in 2014.