21 January 2019
Wednesday's raids were reportedly conducted to investigate the merger of Samsung companies last year. Photo: WSJ
Wednesday's raids were reportedly conducted to investigate the merger of Samsung companies last year. Photo: WSJ

Prosecutors raid Samsung offices as Park scandal spreads

Prosecutors raided the offices of the Samsung conglomerate as a scandal surrounding the country’s president and her top advisers crept deeper into the nation’s largest business group.

They conducted a daylong sweep of the Samsung headquarters in the Gangnam neighborhood of Seoul, the Wall Street Journal reports.

At the same time, prosecutors raided the offices of South Korea’s National Pension Service  – the world’s third largest with about US$460 billion in assets and the largest shareholder in many of South Korea’s biggest companies.

The pension fund last year cast a decisive vote in favor of a merger of two Samsung affiliates that strengthened the grip of vice chairman and third-generation heir Lee Jae-yong on smartphone maker Samsung Electronics Co., the crown jewel of the business empire.

It is unclear if the raids were linked to that merger.

Spokespeople for Samsung, the NPS and the prosecutors’ office all confirmed the raids, but declined to elaborate on the reason for document seizures at the offices.

South Korea’s Yonhap News Agency said that the Wednesday raids were to investigate last year’s merger of the Samsung companies.

The investigation is widely viewed as part of a scandal involving South Korean President Park Geun-hye and a close associate, who prosecutors say used her influence to extort money from corporations like Samsung, Hyundai Group and LG Corp.

The unfolding affair has led to the indictment of the president’s confidante, Choi Soon-sil.

In addition, prosecutors have formally accused Park of aiding in her friend’s scheme—making her the first South Korean president to face a criminal investigation while in office.

Also included in the raid on Wednesday, said Yonhap, was the office of Hong Wan-sun, the chief investment officer at South Korea’s pension service from 2013 until earlier this year; he was a key proponent of the Samsung merger last year.

Hong did not immediately respond to an emailed request for comment.

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