Samsung Group chief charged with bribery, corporate nerve center dismantled

Tue Feb 28, 2017 7:23am EST
 
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By Se Young Lee and Ju-min Park

SEOUL (Reuters) - South Korean prosecutors charged Samsung Group [SARG.UL] chief Jay Y. Lee with bribery and embezzlement on Tuesday as the top conglomerate announced the dismantling of its corporate strategy office, the latest developments in a graft scandal that has rocked the country.

Jay Y. Lee, 48, was arrested on Feb. 17 over his alleged role in the corruption scandal involving impeached President Park Geun-hye, dealing a fresh blow to the standard-bearer for Asia's fourth-largest economy.

The special prosecutor's office said on Tuesday, the last day of its investigation, that it had charged Lee, third-generation leader of the tech giant "chaebol", and four other executives with bribery and embezzlement.

The charges against Lee included pledging bribes to a company and organizations tied to Park's confidant, Choi Soon-sil, the woman at the center of the scandal, to cement his control of the smartphones-to-biopharmaceuticals business empire.

"We apologize for the social controversy and distress we have caused," Samsung Group Executive Vice President Lee June told reporters.

The charges came ahead of a Constitutional Court ruling on whether to uphold parliament's December impeachment of Park.

That impeachment was triggered by accusations that she colluded with Choi to pressure big businesses, including Samsung, to donate to two foundations set up to back the president's policy initiatives.

The 65-year-old daughter of a former military strongman has had her powers suspended. The Constitutional Court's ruling is expected sometime in March.   Continued...

 
Lee Kyu-chul, spokesperson for the independent counsel team, speaks during a media briefing at its office in Seoul, South Korea February 28, 2017.   REUTERS/Kim Hong-Ji