Jay Y. Lee left the special prosecution office without answering reporters questions and headed to a waiting car. The South Koreans are investigating whether Samsung provided $25.46 million to Choi Soon-sil, in exchange for the national pension fund’s support for a 2015 merger of two Samsung affiliates. Choi Soon-sil is a chum of President Park Geun-hye who is on the verge of being thrown out of office.
The special prosecutor’s office said it would decide over the weekend whether to seek a warrant to arrest 48-year-old Lee, the third-generation leader of South Korea’s largest conglomerate. There were no plans to bring him in for further questioning.
Lee denied some of the suspicions against him but had admitted his involvement to others, the special prosecutors’ office said,
Park was impeached by parliament in December, a decision that must be upheld or overturned by the Constitutional Court. Park, who has been stripped of her powers in the meantime, has denied wrongdoing.
Prosecutors were looking into whether Jay Y. Lee gave false testimony during a parliamentary hearing in early December, where the heads of nine of South Korea’s biggest conglomerate were subjected to an unprecedented 13-hour televised grilling by a panel investigating the presidential scandal.
Jay Y. Lee denied bribery accusations during that hearing, rejecting assertions from lawmakers that Samsung lobbied to get the fund to back the merger.
There is a certain amount of “show trial” as South Korea’s elite rarely get banged up over these cases. Normally they have prison sentences shortened or forgiven, or received pardons, with the economic impact of imprisonment cited as a factor.
Jay Y. Lee’s dad Lee Kun-hee was handed a three-year suspended jail sentence in 2009 for tax evasion. He was later pardoned.