Samsung chief staves off arrest, prosecutor keeps chasing

Thu Jan 19, 2017 2:16am EST
 
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By Joyce Lee and Ju-min Park

SEOUL (Reuters) - A South Korean court on Thursday dismissed an arrest warrant against the head of Samsung Group [SAGR.UL], the country's largest conglomerate, amid a graft scandal that has led to the impeachment of President Park Geun-hye.

But the reprieve for Jay Y. Lee, 48, may only be temporary, as the special prosecutor's office said it would pursue the case.

Lee, who has led Samsung since his father, Lee Kun-hee, suffered a heart attack in 2014, was still likely to face the same charges of bribery, embezzlement and perjury, legal analysts said, even if he is not detained.

Lee left the Seoul Detention Centre carrying a white shopping bag and climbed into a car without talking to reporters, having been held overnight as the court deliberated whether to grant the arrest warrant.

The special prosecutor's office said it would be continuing its probe but had not decided whether to make another arrest warrant request, and the setback would not change its plans to investigate other conglomerates.

Spokesman Lee Kyu-chul said the prosecution was unconvinced by the Samsung chief's argument that he was a victim of coercion due to pressure from Park.

The spokesman also said Samsung Group Vice Chairman Choi Gee-sung had been classified as a suspect on suspicion of bribery, but did not elaborate further. Two other Samsung officials, Choi's deputy Chang Choong-ki and Samsung Electronics executive Park Sang-jin, were also under investigation.

The office has accused Lee of paying multi-million dollar bribes to Park's confidant, Choi Soon-sil, the woman at the heart of the scandal, to win support from the National Pension Service for a controversial 2015 merger of two Samsung Group affiliates.   Continued...

 
Samsung Group chief, Jay Y. Lee, leaves after attending a court hearing to review a detention warrant request against him at the Seoul Central District Court in Seoul, South Korea, January 18, 2017.   REUTERS/Kim Hong-Ji