Seoul court to decide on arrest of Samsung heir

Seoul, Jan 18 (IANS) The Seoul Central District Court on Wednesday began a hearing to decide whether to order the arrest of Samsung group President Lee Jae-yong for alleged bribery, a media report said.

The judges are expected to rule on the arrest of the Samsung heir by the end of the day following testimonies of the prosecution and the defence, EFE news reported.

The South Korean Prosecutor’s office on Monday filed an arrest warrant against Lee over evidence of Samsung’s multimillion-dollar donations to foundations and companies allegedly controlled by Choi Soon-il, nicknamed the “female Rasputin” and a close friend of President Park Geun-hye, in return for business favours.

Samsung allegedly paid some 43 billion won ($35.8 million) to a Germany-based company owned by Choi and to two other non-profit foundations linked to her so that Park’s government would support a controversial merger between two Samsung affiliates in 2015.

During his interrogation last week, the Samsung chief admitted to the prosecution that he made donations, but denied that they were in exchange for business favours from the authorities.

In addition to bribery, the prosecution also accuses Lee of perjury for having offered a different version during a Parliamentary testimony last month.

Prosecutors are also investigating the possible involvement in the case of three other senior executives of the Samsung group, including the Vice President of the conglomerate, Choi Gee-sung.

On Tuesday, Choi’s niece Chang Si-ho admitted to the same court that she blackmailed Samsung in collaboration with her aunt, whom she described as the brain behind the corruption plot that has rocked South Korea and led to Park’s impeachment.

Choi, 60, who has been imprisoned since last November, denies all charges against her, including abuse of power, blackmail and attempted fraud.