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Published: Fri, February 17, 2017
World | By Ernestine Jimenez

Samsung Group leader Lee appears for hearing on arrest warrant

Samsung Group leader Lee appears for hearing on arrest warrant

After an hours-long hearing, Lee and Park are expected to await the court's decision in a detention centre.

Seoul Central District Court said it will hold a hearing on Thursday to review the request to issue an arrest warrant citing those crimes.

Prosecutors accuse Lee in his capacity as head of South Korea's largest conglomerate, or chaebol, of pledging 43 billion won ($37.74 million) to a business and organisations backed by Park's friend, Choi Soon-sil, in exchange for support of a 2015 merger of two Samsung companies.

The 48-year-old, described as a key suspect in the scandal, narrowly avoided being formally arrested last month, after the court ruled there was insufficient evidence.

A decision may come late on Thursday or early Friday, based on previous instances.

In December 2016, the South Korean Parliament approved Park's dismissal.

But prosecutors on Tuesday made a second bid for his arrest, saying they had collected more evidence in recent weeks.

Samsung was the biggest donor among dozens of South Korean companies that gave a total of almost $70 million to two non-profit foundations controlled by Choi.

In seeking Lee's arrest for the second time, the prosecutors said the Samsung heir faces new charges in addition to bribery, embezzlement and lying under oath.

The prosecution also said it would decide later whether to seek charges against three other Samsung executives.

Jay Y. Lee, vice chairman of Samsung, has been embroiled in the political scandal in South Korea. The trappings of the scandal have garnered global attention for their freakish details: Choi claims to be channeling the spirit of Park's dead mother and allegedly is the power behind the throne.

Lee's arrest will likely shock the business community.

They have also requested an arrest warrant for Samsung Electronics Co Ltd President Park Sang-jin, who was also questioned on Monday.

Samsung said in a statement on Wednesday it had "not paid bribes nor made improper requests to the president seeking favours". According to JoonAng Daily, the National Pension Service also happened to be the largest shareholder of Samsung C&T - and the deal was criticized as unfair for Samsung C&T.

The special prosecution office is also reportedly looking into whether the value of Samsung Biologics, which went public past year, was overpriced to benefit the Samsung founding family and also whether the fair trade commission gave any favors to Samsung in relation to its complex cross shareholding structure, which allows the Lee family to control the sprawling businesses with only a minority stake.

Park, who remains in the presidential Blue House, could become the first democratically elected leader in South Korea to be forced from office.

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