SEOUL, Feb. 13 (Korea Bizwire) – The de facto leader of Samsung, South Korea’s largest business group, was quizzed for a second time Monday on charges of bribery, as special prosecutors here accelerated their probe into an influence-peddling scandal centered on President Park Geun-hye.
Lee Jae-yong, vice chairman of Samsung Electronics Co., appeared before the probe team’s office in southern Seoul to undergo questioning over the controversial merger of the conglomerate’s two affiliates in 2015.
“I will faithfully tell the truth during the special prosecutors’ (interrogation) today as well,” Lee told reporters as he arrived at the building, surrounded by dozens of reporters, protesters and police officers. He declined to answer any other questions asked by reporters.
Two other executives at the group’s electronics arm are expected to appear at the office for interrogations on the same day.
The investigation team, led by Independent Counsel Park Young-soo, first questioned Lee on Jan. 12 and sought a warrant to formally arrest him on charges of bribery, embezzlement and perjury. A local court, however, rejected the request, saying it could not see the necessity.
Investigators suspect that Lee gave or promised some 43 billion won (US$36.3 million) worth of bribes to Park’s jailed friend Choi Soon-sil in return for the state-run pension fund’s backing of the merger of two Samsung affiliates.
The business arrangement was seen as critical for the smooth management succession of the group from ailing Samsung Electronics Chairman Lee Kun-hee to his only son Jae-yong.
The probe team’s spokesman Lee Kyu-chul earlier said it will consider whether to seek a warrant against Lee again sometime this week after questioning him.
The special prosecutors have been intensifying the probe with their investigation deadline slated for Feb. 28. The period can be extended once for a month upon consent from Acting President and Prime Minister Hwang Kyo-ahn.