Samsung chief Lee Jae-yong has been arrested on bribery charges
00:39, Feb 21, 2017
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The prosecutors first sought to arrest Lee in January, but a judge turned down that request, citing a lack of evidence.
The news caps a torrid time for the world's largest manufacturer of smart phones and South Korea's biggest company, after the disastrous roll out of its Galaxy Note 7 a year ago.
Samsung's Lee is accused of paying bribes of over $37 million to President Park and her confidant Choi Soon-sil in exchange for influence concerning a massive but controversial 2015 merger of two Samsung units. Lee Kun-hee, the ailing chairman, stepped away from his role at the company when prosecutors indicted him in 2008. On Friday, the Seoul Central District Court arrested Lee on a warrant including allegations of bribery, perjury, embezzlement, hiding assets overseas and concealing illegal profits. "The rationale for and the necessity of (Lee's) arrest", said the message, "is acknowledged considering the new charges and additional evidence collected".
Decisions that could be complicated by Lee's arrest include deliberations over whether to reorganize the group under a holding company structure, as well as its plan to abandon its future strategy office, a central decision-making body that came in for criticism during the scandal. Since Lee assumed a bigger role, Samsung promised to inject the company's top-down hierarchy with a nimble, startup-like attitude. He has been arrested in connection with South Korea's corruption scandal, according toReuters.
Opponents of the merger, mostly minority shareholders, said the deal unfairly benefits the founding family while hurting other shareholders by devaluing the price of one company. Specifically, they allege Lee paid over $37 million to businesses affiliated with Choi Soon-sil, the president's spiritual confidante, in exchange for government approval of a merger a year ago between two Samsung subsidiaries that ultimately gave Lee increased control of the conglomerate (paywall).
Samsung has been in the midst of an ongoing restructuring to clear a succession path for Lee to assume control after his father was incapacitated by a heart attack in 2014.
She, too, denies wrongdoing, but has expressed regret for the way in which she conducted her relationship with Choi.
The case is part of a far-reaching scandal that has driven hundreds of thousands of South Korean protesters to the streets and prompted lawmakers to vote to impeach President Park. If the decision is upheld, a new presidential election should take place in a couple of months.
But arrest of Lee, 48, will have an impact on longer-term investment decisions at the sprawling conglomerate.
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