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Samsung heir arrested in S Korea corruption scandal

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Samsung heir Lee Jae Yong was arrested on Friday over bribery allegations linked to the corruption scandal that has engulfed President Park Geun Hye, the Yonhap news agency reported.

The decision by the Seoul Central District Court to allow the arrest of Lee, vice president of the electronics giant, makes him the first leader in Samsung’s history to be held on criminal charges.

In January, a court rejected a request to arrest Lee, the de facto boss of the Samsung conglomerate, saying it did not see the necessity.

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But prosecutors made a second request on Tuesday, filing more charges against Lee including hiding criminal proceeds and violating the law on transferring assets abroad, Yonhap said.

“The rationale for and the necessity of (Lee’s) arrest is acknowledged considering the new charges and additional evidence collected,” the court said Friday in a text message sent to reporters.

Although Lee’s father, Lee Kung Hee, is officially chairman of Samsung, ill health has forced the younger Lee into a more prominent role in recent years.

Lee Jae Yong-samsung-south korea

Samsung Electronics Vice Chairman Lee Jae Yong surrounded by reporters before police questioning in Seoul, South Korea on January 12, 2017. Lee was arrested on Friday over bribery allegations linked to the corruption scandal that has engulfed President Park Geun Hye, the Yonhap news agency reported. (Credit Image: © Lee Sang-Ho/Xinhua via ZUMA Wire)

Samsung is accused of making donations totalling 43 billion won (36.3 million dollars) to several non-profit foundations operated by Choi Soon Sil, a confidante of Park’s, in exchange for the president’s support for a controversial merger.

The involvement of South Korea’s biggest company in the Choi-Park scandal could have wide-reaching ramifications.

An unnamed official at the Korea Employers Federation told Yonhap that “the potential leadership vaccuum in Samsung … could pose a great burden to our already sluggish economy.”

Lee’s arrest may also deal a further blow to the president, who has so far denied allegations that she colluded with Choi in extorting money and favours from local companies, including Samsung.

Park, who was impeached by South Korea’s National Assembly in December, is awaiting the Constitutional Court’s decision on whether to uphold her ouster.

Choi has been charged with using her ties to Park to pressure companies like Samsung to donate money to foundations she operates.

-dpa