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South Korean Prosecutor Delays Decision on Samsung Leader’s Arrest


Jay Y. Lee (center) vice chairman of Samsung Electronics, arrives to be questioned as a suspect in bribery case in the influence-peddling scandal that led to the president's impeachment at the office of the independent counsel in Seoul, South Korea, Jan. 12, 2017.

South Korea’s special prosecutor has delayed until Monday a decision on whether to seek a warrant to arrest Samsung Group leader Jay Y. Lee, a suspect in an influence-peddling investigation involving President Park Geun-hye, citing the gravity of the case.

The special prosecution had said it would make a decision Lee by Sunday. But spokesman Lee Kyu-chul told reporters investigators were deliberating all factors including the potential economic impact from an arrest of Jay Y. Lee, chief of the country’s top conglomerate.

Prosecutors have been investigating whether Samsung provided 30 billion won ($25.46 million) to a business and foundations backed by Park’s friend, Choi Soon-sil, in exchange for the national pension fund’s support for a 2015 merger of two Samsung affiliates.

Samsung chief denies accusations

The Samsung chief denied bribery accusations during a parliamentary hearing in December.

“This is quite a significant matter, so it has been delayed from what we said on Friday,” spokesman Lee said Sunday, adding that investigators would also decide on whether to seek arrest warrants for three other Samsung Group executives who were questioned.

A Samsung Group spokeswoman declined to comment.

Samsung’s Lee, 48, was questioned for 22 hours before leaving the special prosecutors’ office in Seoul Friday as part of the investigation into a corruption scandal that has led to President Park’s impeachment by parliament.

Establishing a money-for-favor exchange between Samsung and Park is critical for the special prosecutor’s investigation, analysts say.

A court is deciding whether to uphold or overturn the impeachment vote.

Park scandal widens

Park, the daughter of a military ruler, has denied wrongdoing, although she has apologized for exercising poor judgment. Her friend, Choi, who is in detention and facing her own trial, has also denied wrongdoing.

If Park is forced to leave office, a presidential election would be held within 60 days. Among the expected contenders is former U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.

Samsung has acknowledged making contributions to the two foundations as well as a consulting firm controlled by Choi but has repeatedly denied accusations of lobbying to push through the merger of Samsung C&T and Cheil Industries Inc.

The special prosecution also plans to indict early next week National Pension Service chief Moon Hyung-pyo, who was arrested in December after acknowledging he pressured the fund to approve the merger while he was health minister.

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