Sun, Feb 19, 2017 - Page 16 News List

Samsung heir appears for questioning

SOLITARY:During his first night at the Seoul Detention Center, Jay Y. Lee was held in a one-man cell — a privilege reserved for dignitaries, local news reports said


Samsung Group leader Jay Y. Lee yesterday arrives at the office of the independent counsel team in Seoul.

Photo: Reuters

Handcuffed and bound with ropes, the heir of electronics giant Samsung Group yesterday appeared for questioning over his alleged involvement in the corruption scandal currently engulfing South Korean President Park Geun-hye.

Among other allegations, Samsung Group leader Jay Y. Lee is accused of paying nearly US$40 million in bribes to a confidante of the impeached president to secure policy favors.

The conglomerate’s de facto head stared straight ahead as he was greeted by a horde of journalists and camera flashes on his arrival at the office of special prosecutors investigating the case.

He kept silent as journalists fired questions at him, but the metal manacles could be glimpsed under the sleeves of his well-tailored navy suit and white ropes around his arms and back. A badge on his chest bore his prisoner number.

During his first night at the Seoul Detention Center, Lee was detained in a one-man cell instead of a six-person room — a privilege reserved for dignitaries, local news reports said.

However, the 6.27m2 dwelling was a far cry from his US$4 million home in Seoul.

Like all others awaiting trial, he spent his time in detention wearing an inmates’ uniform and eating prison meals — rice, soup and three side dishes — worth 1,440 won (US$1.25), served on a plastic tray and slid through a small window in the cell door.

Food brought from outside is prohibited, the Chosun Ilbo daily said.

After meals, inmates have to clean trays themselves and sleep on folding mattresses. A single-channel TV, whose program is pre-selected and recorded by authorities, is allowed only during the day.

Other inmates at the detention house include Choi Soon-sil, a close confidante of the president who is at the center of the influence-peddling scandal, the former head of Park’s presidential staff and her ex-culture minister. All are incarcerated in their own single cells.

Samsung, South Korea’s largest business group with revenues equivalent to about a fifth of the country’s GDP, was the single biggest donor to the foundations.

The 48-year-old Lee, the son of Samsung Group chairman Lee Kun-hee, has been quizzed several times over his alleged role in the scandal.

The scandal centers on Choi, who is accused of using her close ties with Park to force local firms to “donate” nearly US$70 million to non-profit foundations which Choi allegedly used for personal gain.

Prosecutors are probing whether Samsung paid Choi to secure state approval for the controversial merger of two Samsung units seen as a key step towards ensuring a smooth power transfer to Jay Y. Lee.

It is also accused of separately giving millions of euros to Choi to bankroll her daughter’s equestrian training in Germany.

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