Lee Jae-yong, the acting head of Samsung, South Korea’s biggest conglomerate, has been arrested today over his alleged role in a corruption scandal rocking the highest levels of power in the country – that threatens to topple the country’s impeached president, Park Geun-hye.
On Friday morning, a judge in Seoul approved a request from prosecutors for an arrest warrant for Lee, the prosecutor’s office said.
The special prosecutor’s office also accused Lee of bribing a close friend of President Geun-hye to gain government favours related to leadership succession at the conglomerate.
Prosecutors alleged that the executive, who is also known as Jay Y. Lee, pledged tens of millions of dollars to win favor with President Geun-hye and secure government support for a controversial merger that helped tighten his grip on the company.
They are accusing him of bribery, perjury, concealing criminal profits, embezzlement and hiding assets overseas.
Lee is officially vice-president of the Samsung group, but has been the firm’s de facto head since his father, Lee Kun-hee, had a heart attack in 2014.
The 48-year-old spent Thursday night at the Seoul detention centre awaiting the court’s decision on Friday morning.
Samsung and Lee have denied the allegations.
“No decision had been made on whether Lee’s arrest would be contested or whether bail would be sought,” a spokeswoman for Samsung Group said.
“We will do our best to ensure that the truth is revealed in future court proceedings,” the Samsung Group said in a brief statement after Lee’s arrest.
The same court had rejected a request last month to arrest Lee, but prosecutors this week brought additional accusations against him.
“We acknowledge the cause and necessity of the arrest,” a judge said in his ruling.
Prosecutors are planning to quiz Lee on Saturday, February 18, 2017.