The New Year has not been kind to Samsung thus far. Just yesterday, both Samsung and LG were found by the US International Trade Commission to have violated US and international trade laws following a complaint filed by Whirlpool. Now, less than one day later, Samsung boss Jay Y. Lee was named by the South Korean special prosecutor’s office as a suspect in a political bribery probe.
Special prosecutors in South Korea have officially named Jay Y. Lee as a suspect in an ongoing probe tied to an influence-peddling scandal that may ultimately see current South Korean president Park Geun-hye removed from office. At this point, it appears as though Park will become South Korea’s first elected leader to be forced out of office; the country’s parliament voted in December to impeach her over the Samsung corruption scandal for which Lee is currently being investigated. The country’s Constitutional Court is now tasked with either upholding or overturning the impeachment vote.
The probe stems from a scandal involving President Park, her friend Choi Soon-sil, and payment made by Samsung to a business and several foundations backed by Choi. According to earlier findings in the investigation, the payments totaled approximately $25 million. Samsung acknowledges making the payments to two foundations and a consulting firm, but denies that they were tied to its lobbying efforts to gain approval for the 2015 merger of Samsung C&T and Cheil Industries Inc, a deal that was embroiled in controversy.
The prosecutor’s office has not yet issued formal indictments for Jay Y. Lee or other Samsung executives named in the probe, but arrest warrants could soon be issued, The New York Times noted.
Lee, whose net worth is estimated at $5.8 billion by Forbes, is the son of former Samsung boss Lee Kun-hee, who stepped down as chairman of the Samsung Group in 2008 after being convicted of embezzlement and tax evasion. He was later pardoned by the president of South Korea.