Prosecutors yesterday arrested the de facto head of South Korea’s largest conglomerate, Samsung, on bribery and other charges related to a political corruption scandal that triggered the impeachment of South Korean President Park Geun-hye.
In a fresh blow to the electronics giant’s corporate image, a district court cited new evidence in approving the arrest warrant for Samsung Electronics Co vice chairman Jay Y. Lee, who oversees the family-run giant in the absence of his ailing father.
Among other allegations, Lee is accused of paying nearly US$40 million in bribes to a confidante of Park’s to secure policy favors.
“It is acknowledged that it is necessary to arrest [Lee] in light of a newly added criminal charge and new evidence,” a court spokesman said in a statement.
The group offered a measured response following the arrest as shares of many Samsung units took a hit in Seoul trading.
Shares of Samsung Electronics, the group’s flagship company, slid 0.4 percent, while those of its de facto holdings firm, Samsung C&T Corp, dropped by 2 percent and shares of another key unit, Samsung Life Insurance Co, fell 1.4 percent.
“We will do our best to ensure that the truth is revealed in future court proceedings,” the group said in a statement.
Lee was already being held at a detention center after appearing in court on Thursday as judges deliberated whether to issue an arrest warrant. He will remain in custody as he awaits a trial likely to begin within a few months.
Prosecutors said they planned to summon him today for further questioning, raising the prospect of him appearing in public in handcuffs — a rare sight in the nation dubbed the “Republic of Samsung” due to the group’s huge lobbying power.
Lee, the son of Samsung group boss Lee Kun-hee, has been quizzed several times over his alleged role in the scandal that has rocked the nation.