Published: Wed, March 01, 2017
Global Media | By Cecelia Webb

[IMPEACHMENT] Investigators name Park as bribery suspect; indict 18 more suspects

[IMPEACHMENT] Investigators name Park as bribery suspect; indict 18 more suspects

Samsung has dismantled its corporate strategy office, the nerve centre of operations for the sprawling South Korean conglomerate, following its chief's arrest in a graft scandal that could bring down President Park Geun-hye.

It was apparently the younger Lee's greed that led him to white collar crime. In December, Ms.Park was impeached because of her links with Choi Soon-sil, the daughter of a cult-leader who is said to have exerted great influence over Ms.Park.

When Lee's father, Samsung Electronics Chairman Lee Kun-hee, who has been hospitalized since 2014 following a heart attack, was indicted on charges including tax evasion in 2008, Samsung disbanded such an office, but set up the future strategy office in 2010.

Lee Jae-yong, the Vice President of Samsung, who was arrested on February 17 for his supposed role in the bribery scandal has been found guilty on several counts, including embezzlement and improper use of the company's corporate strategy office.

The case involves whether or not millions of dollars in payments from Samsung to businesses and foundations run by an associate of the President's - Choi Soon-sil - constituted a bribe, and if Lee had any personal dealings with the contributions. Chang Choong-ki and Park Sang-jin, presidents at Samsung who also face criminal charges, will resign and leave the company as well.

Specifically, Samsung execs under Lee's direction are thought by prosecutors to have donated $37.6m to one of Park's advisors, with the understanding that regulators would then approve Samsung's 2015 merger with Cheil Industries.

They did not disclose specifics of the charges against Lee or other Samsung executives.

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In exchange for donations totaling more than $36 million, Samsung received Park's support for a merger between Samsung affiliates that helped consolidate Lee's succession. The special prosecutor's office accuses Lee of bribing a close friend of President Park Guen-hye.

The suspended state chief, who is now awaiting for the Constitutional Court's final ruling in her impeachment, yet has the constitutional immunity to criminal prosecution.

Samsung is the world's leading seller of mobile phones and is South Korea's largest conglomerate.

A Samsung Group spokeswoman declined to comment on the charges.

"We apologise for the social controversy and distress we have caused", Samsung Group executive vice president Lee June told reporters.

Jay Y. Lee, vice chairman of Samsung, arrives at the Seoul Central District Court on January 18. He was later convicted and then pardoned by a former president.

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