Samsung heir arrested for connection to President Park Geun Hye's scandal

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Samsung heir arrested for connection to President Park Geun Hye's scandal

Special prosecutors investigating the influence-peddling scandal that led to the impeachment of the president said Tuesday they have asked a court to issue an arrest warrant for Lee Jae-yong, the vice chairman of Samsung Electronics.

The prosecutors argued that the 48-year-old billionaire offered a bribe of $36 million to President Park Geun-hye and her long-time friend to win government backing for a controversial merger.

Samsung is accused of giving donations to non-profit foundations operated by Choi Soon-sil, a friend of Ms Park, in exchange for government favours.

Samsung officials, who had vowed to "reveal the truth in the court" before the arrest warrant was granted, expressed serious concerns that a leadership vacuum would make the group's key business decisions hit a standstill.

"For three weeks, we secured additional evidence that we can be sure about, and after careful deliberation have requested (an arrest warrant) for the second time", spokesman Lee Kyu-chul told reporters without elaborating.

A court decision on the warrant request is expected by early Friday.

Lee Jae-yong appeared in the court an hour before the start of the hearing, which was scheduled at 10.30 a.m. local time, Efe news reported.

Park has been stripped of her powers while the Constitutional Court decides whether to uphold her impeachment.

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According to Bloomberg the de facto head of Samsung, known professionally as Jay Y. Lee, had been summoned to court as of 6 AM local time on February 17.

Lee and the Samsung Group [SAGR.UL] have denied any wrongdoing.

South Korea's special prosecutor's office said on Wednesday it had expanded charges against Lee to include hiding the proceeds of a criminal act, as well as bribery, embezzlement, hiding assets overseas and perjury.

The court is also deliberating an arrest warrant for another Samsung executive, who is also the head of Korea Equestrian Federation, over bribery charges.

His arrest is likely to send shock waves through the group, which is a major part of the South Korean economy. Its offices have been raided several times on suspicion that the presidential office influenced the decision by South Korea's state-run pension fund to back Samsung's merger plan a year ago.

The merger was opposed by many minority shareholders, who said the deal would hurt them while unfairly benefiting Lee and other members of Samsung's founding family.

Lee took over day-to-day operations of Samsung after his father stepped back because of health issues in 2014. After his latest conviction in 2008, he was pardoned a year later by the president, who said he would help South Korea's bid to host the 2018 Winter Olympics.

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