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Samsung Group Heir Named Bribery Suspect


Lee Jae-yong, Samsung heir, wearing glasses

South Korean prosecutors are going to investigate the third-generation heir of Samsung as a bribery suspect. With this move, the biggest tech company in the country is once again drawn into an already existing scandal which saw the president impeached.

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The heir is a bribery suspect

The name of the Samsung heir is Lee Jae-yong. The prosecutors reportedly want to know if some payments made by Samsung worth about 30 billion won or $25 million for a business owned by a friend of the president had anything to do with a national pension fund decision. In 2015, the national pension fund decided to support a merger which was very controversial. According to prosecutors, companies like Samsung, Hyundai or LG gave millions to such foundations belonging to president Park’s friend. This was all reportedly done in order to gain some political favors in return. On Thursday, Lee Jae-yong will have to answer questions as a bribery suspect.

A spokesman for the prosecutors stated that it is still unclear whether or not Lee Jae-yong or any other executive from Samsung will be indicted. However, he did not exclude the possibility of an arrest warrant against him, which the prosecutors might request. The spokeswoman for Samsung Group refused to comment on the matter. Prosecutors might want to seek any advantage to strengthen their case against president Park. The aim of this investigation is to prove that the president, along with some of her friends, offered various favors in exchange for bribes. For both Samsung and the Lee family, a conviction of Lee Jae-yong would destabilize the company very much. Moreover, it would make it very difficult for the current owner, Lee Kun-hee, to peacefully pass the power on to his heirs.

A problem with the president

As for president Park, the situation is very bleak. She might become South Korea’s first ruler, who was democratically elected, to leave office earlier than normal. In December, the parliament voted for her impeachment because of the corruption scandal that shook the entire country. Since then, many people are gathering weekly to ask for her to step down from the presidential chair. However, the Constitutional Court is the one which must uphold or overturn the impeachment.

Samsung Group has admitted to giving large sums of money to two foundations and a consulting firm, all three belonging to this friend of the president. However, they thoroughly denied ever trying to create a merger back in 2015, between the Samsung C&T and Cheil Industries Inc companies. In December, chief of National Pension Service Moon Hyung-pyo was arrested. Back then, he admitted to pressuring the fund to accept the alleged merger. He was, at the time, health minister.

Lee also denied everything in a parliamentary hearing in December. He said that Samsung never made pressures on the fund to support the merger. This testimony will also be investigated by the prosecutors because, according to them, he might have lied. Lee Kun-hee gave up on his position as Samsung Group chairman back in 2008. All in all, we will see what is going to happen to the Samsung heir, Lee Jae-yong, and what the consequences will be for the company.

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