Samsung Vice Chairman Linked To Growing South Korea Bribery Scandal

Image courtesy of Adam Fagen

As if the worldwide recall of its Galaxy Note 7 — not to mention 2.8 million washing machines that could break your jaw — wasn’t enough of an issue for Samsung, one of the company’s executives has now been linked to a growing bribery scandal investigation in South Korea. 

The New York Times reports that a special prosecutor investigating a corruption scandal involving South Korea President Park Geun-hye has named vice chairman of Samsung, Jay Y. Lee a suspect in the bribery case.

The case involves whether or not $25 million in payments from Samsung to businesses and foundations run by an associate of the President’s constituted a bribe, and if Lee had any personal dealings with the contributions.

Lee is expected to be questioned Thursday about his and his company’s role in the unraveling scandal.

The prosecutor’s office alleges that Samsung’s contributions — including $17 million in donations to Choi’s foundation and millions of dollars worth of contracts to companies she ran or was involved with — were made in exchange for a decision by the National Pension Services to support a merger of two of the electronic company’s affiliates.

The Times reports that the merger was personally beneficial to Lee, as it eventually led him to take over control of Samsung from his father.

In addition to announcing it would question Lee, the prosecutor’s office on Wednesday also recommended that he be investigated for perjury stemming from November testimony he gave to the National Assembly that he was not involved in Samsung’s decision to make more than $17 million in donations and other contributions to Choi’s businesses and foundations.

The Times reports that the overall bribery investigation centers on allegations that President Park helped friend Choi Soon-sil extort $69 million from Samsung and 52 other companies.

Shortly after state prosecutors indicted Choi in November on charges of coercion, President Park was named as an accomplice, but was not charged.

Despite this, in December, the National Assembly voted to impeach Park. The Times reports that the fate of her presidency will now be decided by a trial handled by the Constitutional Court.