South Korea prosecution to decide on Samsung chief warrant by Wednesday

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South Korean special prosecutor’s office will decide no later than Wednesday whether to request an arrest warrant for Samsung Group [SAGR.UL] chief Jay Y. Lee, a suspect in a graft investigation that may topple President Park Geun-hye.

FILE PHOTO - Samsung Group chief, Jay Y. Lee, leaves after attending a court hearing to review a detention warrant request against him at the Seoul Central District Court in Seoul, South Korea, January 18, 2017.   REUTERS/Kim Hong-Ji/File Photo
FILE PHOTO – Samsung Group chief, Jay Y. Lee, leaves after attending a court hearing to review a detention warrant request against him at the Seoul Central District Court in Seoul, South Korea, January 18, 2017. REUTERS/Kim Hong-Ji/File Photo

Lee, third-generation leader of the country’s top conglomerate, was questioned for more than 15 hours after being summoned by the special prosecution on Monday.

He is accused of pledging payments to a company and organizations backed by Park’s confidant, Choi Soon-sil, to win support for a 2015 merger of two Samsung affiliates.

“There will be a decision on whether to make another arrest warrant request for him between today and tomorrow,” special prosecutor’s office spokesman Lee Kyu-chul told reporters on Tuesday in a briefing.

The office will decide at the same time on whether to seek arrest warrants for four other Samsung Group executives identified as suspects in its investigation.

A Samsung Group spokeswoman declined to comment.

Park was impeached by parliament in December after accusations that she 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.

Both women deny wrongdoing.

Park, 65, and the daughter of a former military ruler, remains in office but has been stripped of her powers while the Constitutional Court decides whether to uphold the impeachment.

If the court rules to uphold the impeachment vote, Park would be South Korea’s first elected leader to be forced from office and a presidential election would be held.

The special prosecutor has focused on Samsung Group’s relationship with Park, accusing Lee in his capacity as Samsung chief of pledging 43 billion won to win support for the 2015 merger of Samsung C&T Corp and Cheil Industries Inc.

Lee, 48, has denied wrongdoing.

Last month, a court rejected the prosecution’s first request for an arrest warrant for the Samsung chief. The office on Tuesday declined to comment on whether it had any new evidence against him or other Samsung executives.

Proving illicit dealings between Park, or those linked to her, and the Samsung Group is critical for the special prosecutor’s case that ultimately targets Park, analysts have said.

Prosecution spokesman Lee said the office had told parliament it needed to extend the investigation period. The office can seek a 30-day extension to its current deadline of Feb. 28.

The office of acting president Hwang Kyo-ahn, who must sign off on any such extension, could not be immediately reached for comment.

(Reporting by Se Young Lee and Ju-min Park; Editing by Simon Cameron-Moore, Robert Birsel)


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