Tue, Mar 07, 2017 - Page 5 News List

Park colluded with friend for Samsung bribe: probe

BRIBERY AND BLACKLISTING:South Korean President Park Geun-hye might face indictment after potential impeachment to be decided by the Constitutional Court some time this month

Reuters, Seoul

South Korean special prosecutor Park Young-soo addresses a news conference at the special prosecutor’s office in Seoul yesterday.

Photo: EPA

South Korean President Park Geun-hye allegedly colluded with her friend Choi Soon-sil to receive bribes from Samsung Group aimed at cementing Samsung leader Jay Y. Lee’s control of the conglomerate, the South Korean special prosecutors’ office said yesterday.

The conclusion paved the way for state prosecutors to investigate Park if she is removed from office by the South Korean Constitutional Court reviewing her impeachment and possibly indict her for bribery and blacklisting artists and writers.

In a statement detailing the findings of its investigation, the office said the National Pension Service voted in favor of a merger of two Samsung Group affiliates in 2015, despite anticipating a 138.8 billion won (US$119.92 million at the current exchange rate) loss.

“Samsung Group vice chairman Lee Jae-yong colluded with others, including the corporate strategy office chief Choi Gee-sung, to bribe the South Korean president and Choi Soon-sil with an aim to receive support for his succession by embezzling corporate funds,” special prosecutor Park Young-soo told a televised news conference, referring to the Samsung leader’s Korean name.

Lee, 48, pledged 43 billion won in return for support from Park Geun-hye and Choi for a variety of steps, including a merger of two Samsung affiliates in 2015 and last year’s domestic listing of a loss-making drug maker Samsung Biologics Co Ltd, the special prosecutor said.

Park Geun-hye, Choi and Lee have all denied wrongdoing.

Park Geun-hye’s lawyer yesterday said that the special prosecutor’s charge against her was “fiction” and that she did not receive illicit favors from Samsung.

“Future court proceedings will reveal the truth,” Samsung said in a statement, reiterating it did not pay bribes or make improper requests seeking favors.

The investigation looked into an influence-peddling scandal involving Park Geun-hye, who was impeached by parliament in December last year after accusations that she had colluded with her long-time friend Choi to pressure big businesses to donate to two foundations set up to back the president’s policy initiatives.

The 65-year-old daughter of a former military strongman has had her powers suspended. The Constitutional Court will rule on whether to uphold parliament’s impeachment. The court is expected to hand down its decision some time this month.

Should it uphold the impeachment, Park Geun-hye would become the country’s first democratically elected president to be thrown out of office and trigger an election in Asia’s fourth-largest economy.

South Korean law does not allow a sitting president to be indicted. No formal charges can be brought against her until she is either removed from office or her term ends as scheduled in late February next year.

Her removal from office would subject her to a fresh investigation by state prosecutors, who have been handed the record from the special prosecutors’ office that has named her as a suspect on charges laid to Choi and Lee.

“Bribery charges related to the president, and the culture blacklist case ... have been transferred to the prosecutors’ office,” Park Young-soo said.

The special prosecutor also said the president was instrumental in blacklisting more than 9,000 artists, authors and movie industry professionals and excluding them from government assistance that constituted an abuse of power.

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