South Korean special prosecutors said they will indict Samsung’s de facto chief Tuesday on bribery, embezzlement and other charges linked to a political scandal that has toppled President Park Geun-hye.
The planned indictment of Samsung Electronics vice chairman Lee Jae-yong is a huge hit for the country’s most important company. It also signals the still roiling state of South Korea’s political and economic circles after weeks of massive demonstrations that led to Park’s impeachment and a three-month investigation by the special prosecution team.
Prosecutors say the Samsung heir gave bribes worth $36 million to Park and her confidante to help win government support for a smooth company leadership transition.
Lee also allegedly hid assets overseas, concealed proceeds from criminal activities and committed perjury. The 48-year-old billionaire was arrested Feb. 17. Samsung has denied wrongdoing.
Prosecutors also said they planned to indict four other Samsung executives on charges of offering bribes, embezzlement, hiding assets overseas and concealing proceeds from criminal activities. The are identified as Samsung Group vice chairman Choi Gee-sung, president Chang Choong-ki and Samsung Electronics Co Ltd president Park Sang-jin and executive vice president Hwang Sung-soo.
The planned indictments mean that key figures at a powerful yet secretive Samsung office that wielded influence over dozens of Samsung affiliates face trial. Lee promised earlier to disband the secretive office, called the Corporate Strategy Office, which allegedly orchestrated bribery schemes centred on Choi Soon-sil, Park’s confidante.
Choi denies the charges and says an alleged confession was coerced. Park has also denied wrongdoing.
Lee was once the face of the new Samsung but now follows in his father’s footsteps. The senior Lee was indicted in 2008 on tax evasion and a breach of trust. Lee Kun-hee, 75, Samsung Electronics chairman, was later convicted and pardoned by a former president.
Corruption has dogged many other business leaders in South Korea’s family-controlled conglomerates, which are known as chaebol.
Samsung, the largest and the most successful among the big businesses that dominate the South Korean economy, has vowed a series of measures to improve transparency.