Samsung Vice Chair Avoids Arrest In Connection With South Korean Bribery Case

Image courtesy of Adam Fagen

Days after a South Korean special prosecutor investigating a bribery scandal involving the country’s President sought the arrest of Samsung’s vice chairman, a court denied the request, citing a lack of evidence. 

Reuters reports that a South Korean judge on Thursday denied a request to arrest Jay Y. Lee, who was accused of paying $36.4 million in bribes to secure a merger of two affiliates, as well as perjury and embezzlement.

The judge in the case ruled that Lee’s arrest was not necessary at this point.

“After reviewing the contents and the process of the investigation so far … it is difficult to acknowledge the necessity and substantiality of an arrest at the current stage,” the judge said, as reported by Reuters.

Despite, the court decision, a spokesperson for the special prosecutor’s office said it would continue to pursue the case, but was unclear if it would seek another arrest warrant request for Lee.

Additionally, the office tells Reuters that it has also classified Samsung Group Vice Chairman Choi Gee-sung as a suspect on suspicion of bribery, while two other Samsung officials are now under investigation.

Samsung said in a statement that with the decision “the merits of this case can now be determined without the need for detention.”

Lee was first publicly tied to the case last week when he faced 22 hours of questioning related to his part in the corruption scandal involving South Korea President Park Geun-hye.

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.

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 merger was personally reportedly beneficial to Lee, as it eventually led him to take over control of Samsung from his father.