South Korean prosecutors said Wednesday that they have started investigating allegations that ailing Samsung Group chairman Lee Kun-hee bought sex from prostitutes several times between 2011 and 2013.
An official from the Seoul Central District Prosecutors' Office said the case is being handled by a division specializing in crimes against women and children. He refused to be named, citing office rules.
The allegations were raised last week after internet news outlet Newstapa released footage purportedly showing a man who appeared to be Lee interacting with women who might have been prostitutes on several occasions.
Newstapa didn't reveal how it obtained the videos, but said they were filmed secretly by at least one of the women who allegedly served Lee. It also reported that the creators of the videos likely tried to use them to blackmail Lee or the Samsung Group before they were leaked to journalists.
Samsung said Wednesday that it had no comment on what it described as a "personal matter'' of Lee.
Selling or buying sex is a crime punishable by up to a year in prison or a fine of 3 million won ($2,600) in South Korea.
Lee, 74, credited by some for his role in helping South Korea's largest business group grow into a global technology giant, has been hospitalized since suffering a heart attack in May 2014 and is reportedly in a coma.