South Korea court refuses to authorize Samsung heir’s arrest

January 19, 2017 10:00 am

Samsung’s de facto head Lee Jae-yong leaves a detention center after a court refused to issue an arrest warrant for him over an alleged role in a corruption scandal engulfing President Park Geun-hye, in Seoul, , early on January 19, 2017. (Photo by AFP)

A court in South has rejected a request to authorize the arrest of Samsung Electronics’ de facto head, in a major setback for prosecutors investigating an influence-peddling scandal in the country.
The Seoul Central District Court concluded in a decision on Thursday that it had not been provided with enough justification to approve an arrest warrant for Samsung’s 48-year-old vice chairman, Lee Jae-yong, known professionally as Jay Y. Lee, at this stage.
Lee had been questioned for 22 straight hours last week. He had also been remanded in police custody for some 18 hours following a court hearing on Wednesday. The Thursday ruling by the Seoul District Court also ordered his release.
The decision, however, infuriated the prosecutors, who described the ruling as “very regrettable.” Nonetheless, they said that they would continue their investigation “without wavering.”
Lee became Samsung’s de facto leader after his father suffered a heart attack three years ago. The special prosecutor’s office had sought the warrant, claiming that Lee had paid or promised bribes totaling 43 billion won (36.42 million dollars) to Choi Soon-sil, a friend of President Park Geun-hye’s and the woman at the center of the scandal.
South Korean prosecutors have focused on Lee and other senior Samsung officials in recent months. The company’s authorities reportedly argued that although they were intimidated to “donate” funds to institutions controlled by Choi, they did not seek any favors in return and thus the payments could not be regarded as a bribe.
President Park faces accusations that she colluded with Choi to pressure big businesses, including Samsung, to “donate” the amounts. Park has been impeached by parliament and is awaiting a constitutional court verdict on the validity of the parliament’s impeachment vote over the matter. She remains stripped of her presidential powers in the meantime.
Both Park and Choi have denied the accusations against them.
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