Samsung Electronics vice-chairman Lee Jae-yong has been named as a suspect in a bribery probe, drawing the nation’s biggest business group deeper into a political scandal that has led to the impeachment of South Korea’s president.
The third-generation heir of the Samsung conglomerate will be questioned in relation to suspected bribery, the Wall Street Journal cited prosecutors as saying Wednesday.
Lee, 48, has been asked to present himself Thursday at the special prosecutors’ office.
The office also called on lawmakers to report Lee for allegedly lying under oath while testifying last month at a legislative hearing on the corruption scandal.
Special prosecutors will then be able to investigate charges of perjury, a spokesperson for the office was quoted as saying.
The special prosecutors’ office was created by the National Assembly late last year following allegations of high-level corruption involving a longtime confidante of President Park Geun-hye and the country’s biggest conglomerates.
Prosecutors are looking into whether groups such as Samsung, Hyundai Motor and LG, which donated millions of dollars to two foundations allegedly controlled by Choi Soon-sil, Park’s friend, expected political favors in return.
Choi is alleged to have exerted unusual control over government decisions from behind the scenes. She has denied wrongdoing.
In Samsung’s case, prosecutors have raised questions about whether the government-backed National Pension Service voted in favor of an US$8 billion merger of two Samsung affiliates in 2015 in exchange for donations to Choi.
The merger helped Lee solidify control over Samsung Electronics.
Samsung topped the list of conglomerates that donated to Choi’s two foundations, contributing 20.4 billion Korean won (US$17 million) in total, according to the Journal report.
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