South Korean Prosecutors Seek To Arrest Samsung Heir
Samsung Electronics Vice Chairman Lee Jae-Young is set to appear in court to determine whether or not the arrest warrant issued against him is valid. The move is part of an investigation that involves the corruption of several political and business elites in South Korea.
The case involving Lee centers on a merger of two Samsung affiliates in 2015 that helped him strengthen his control over Samsung Electronics, as reported by CNN. Prosecutors accuse Lee of instructing the Samsung affiliates to make payments amounting to 43 billion won ($36 million) to President Park Geun-Hye's long-time confidante in exchange for the government backing for the merger.
Lee denied the allegations and said he was unaware that such payments were made. The arrest warrant for Lee was issued on the same day National Pension Service chief Moon Hyung-pyo was prosecuted on charges of perjury and abuse of power, according to the New York Times. Back when Moon was the minister of health and welfare, he allegedly pressured the pension fund, a major shareholder in one of the Samsung affiliates, to support the merger.
The National Pension Service offered to decline a statement on the issue. The charges are the latest developments in one of the most talked about political scandals in the history of South Korea with people protesting in the streets for weeks and eventually prompting lawmakers to impeach Park. Since news of the arrest warrant, Samsung Electronics' stock dropped 2.1 percent and shares are down around 5.5 percent.
Notably, the company is still recovering from the damages it incurred over explosive Samsung Galaxy Note 7 batteries that led to a recall of the smartphone. This wouldn't be the first time that a member of the group faced criminal charges. Lee's father was found guilty of tax evasion in 2008 and sentenced to three years in prison but it was never implemented. The court ruled for the senior Lee to pay 110 billion won ($93 million) which sparked criticisms from South Koreans.
Over the years, the South Korean government and judiciary have been lenient in convicting business tycoons and political elites deepening public mistrust of the justice system. However, the country saw a complete turn of events when the unprecedented political scandal erupted late last year. The government heard the clamor for change and since then made efforts to clean the system and wipe out corruption both in business and politics. The people went on to put their faith and can only hope that for this time around truth will prevail and justice be served.