Samsung heir Lee Jae-yong formally arrested in corruption investigation

The heir to the Samsung group, Lee Jae-yong, has been formally arrested on allegations of bribery, perjury and embezzlement. Prosecutors have ten days to indict the de facto head of South Korea's biggest company.

The Seoul Central District Court issued the warrant for Lee Jae-Yong's arrest early Friday. The Samsung Group chief had spent the night at a detention center in the South Korean capital awaiting the decision on the second request by prosecutors for his arrest.

Prosecutors now have up to 10 days to indict Lee although they can seek an extension. The state special prosecutor's office said it was planning to indict the grandson of Samsung's founder on charges that go beyond previously cited bribery allegations. Lee is to be questioned again on Saturday. 

In a statement made after the 48-year-old Lee was detained, the Samsung Group said: "We will do our best to ensure that the truth is revealed in future court proceedings."

Lee will remain at the detention center, in a single cell with a TV and desk, a jail official said.

The court made the decision to allow the arrest this time because of the risk Lee might destroy evidence or flee, according to a spokesman. "We acknowledge the cause and necessity of the arrest," the judge ruled. The court had rejected the prosecutor's first attempt to arrest Lee in January due to lack of evidence.

However, the judge rejected the prosecution's request to arrest Samsung Electronics president Park Sang-jin.


Extortion and manipulation

On Monday, a Danish court extended the detention of Chung Yoo-ra, the daughter of Choi Soon-sil, the woman at the centre of a corruption scandal that led to the impeachment of Park Geun-hye, South Korea's president. Choi is accused of influencing government policy and getting rich through extortion and manipulation.


South Korea's 'Rasputin'

Choi is in custody on charges of meddling in state affairs without holding a government position and using her connections with the president to extort vast sums of money from many of South Korea's best-known companies. Beyond the legal charges, she is being blamed for both effectively bringing down the government of President Park and leaving her reputation and political legacy in tatters.



Last month, Park did not turn up to testify in a court case which will decide her future. The president was impeached over a multifaceted corruption scandal in December.


Fall from grace

After her impeachment, Park Geun-hye is regarded both as a perpetrator and a victim. Her future is uncertain as the country struggles to recover from a political scandal.


Calls for early elections

Tens of thousands of protesters have taken to the streets since the start of the corruption scandal, calling on President Park to step down. South Korea's Constitutional Court is deciding whether to formally unseat Park or restore her power. If she is forced out, a new election would be held within two months to choose her successor.


Scandal reaches top of the 'chaebols'

South Korea's corruption scandal has spilled over into the highest levels of business. The vice-chairman of Samsung, Lee Jae-yong, was questioned last month by investigators who are seeking evidence that he paid bribes to Choi Soon-sil. Given the economic and political importance of Samsung in South Korea, if Lee is indicted, it could be on the same level of President Park's impeachment.


The split

In December, a group of lawmakers from South Korea's ruling Saenuri Party abandoned Park to form a new party, tentatively named the New Conservative Party for Reform (NCPR). The party infighting is another blow to Park.


Ban drops out of presidential race

Former United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has declared that he won't run for South Korea's presidency. He had been expected to seek the position after a corruption scandal saw President Park impeached. The newly-formed NCPR was hoping that Ban would join their ranks.

Payments to the president

Investigators are to determine if Lee, who is also vice chairman of Samsung Electronics Co, was involved in paying $38 million (35.6 million euros) to benefit a close friend of the country's President Park Geun-hye. The deal is alleged to have been made in exchange for government support of Lee's management succession in the sprawling Samsung group.

Samsung has denied it made an unlawful offer or paid a bribe to the president in exchange for favors.

Lee, who is also known as Jay Y. Lee, was questioned for 15 hours on Monday. A spokesman for the prosecutor said on Tuesday they had found evidence of Lee concealing profits from criminal acts. He is also believed to have hidden assets overseas.

Südkorea Samsung Firmenzentrale

Samsung's headquarters in Seoul

Samsung restructuring

Lee has been acting as head of the smartphone and electronics giant since his father Lee Kun-hee suffered a heart attack in 2014. The group is carrying out an ongoing restructuring to clear the route for Lee to assume control of the group. His arrest may jeopardize the project.

Related Subjects

The investigation into Samsung is part of the wider one into dozens of other South Korean companies. They are believed to have given contributions to Choi Soon-sil, a close confidante of President Park, who has been impeached and her powers suspended.  A separate constitutional court will determine whether Park is ultimately removed from office.

jm/rt (Reuters, AFP)