Published : Jan 18, 2017 - 11:33 Updated : Jan 18, 2017 - 21:33
Samsung Group’s heir apparent Lee Jae-yong has been placed behind bars while awaiting a court decision on whether he should remain there or walk free.
The Samsung Electronics vice chairman was transferred to a detention facility in the southwestern suburb of Seoul, after attending a court hearing on his arrest warrant.
He is accused of bribing President Park Geun-hye and her confidante Choi Soon-sil as part of the widening investigation into the scandal that led to the president’s impeachment on Dec. 9.
A decision on whether to arrest the de facto chief of the country’s largest conglomerate is expected to come later Wednesday night or early Thursday morning.
As Lee, 48, appeared at the Seoul Central District Court at 9:55 a.m., journalists bombarded him with questions, but he quickly walked past the crowd to the courtroom without answering any questions.
Lee walked out of the courtroom at 2:10 p.m., four hours after the hearing began. Looking tense and grim-faced, he immediately headed toward a black car that was on standby and left for the detention center.
Lee Jae-yong (Yonhap)
“We (Lee’s lawyers) sufficiently clarified allegations. We are certain that the court will make a wise decision,” Lee’s lawyer Song Woo-chul told reporters. “The sticking point was whether the donations were for business favors.”
He is set to wait at the detention center for the court’s decision. If the warrant is issued, he will immediately be taken into custody and will face the ongoing probe in jail. If the warrant is rejected, he will be set free.
An independent counsel investigating the scandal involving President Park sought a warrant for Lee on charges of bribery, embezzlement and perjury Monday.
Lee is suspected of offering bribes worth 43 billion won ($36) to Park’s longtime friend Choi in return for the Park administration’s backing of a merger of two Samsung affiliates. The merger was a crucial step for the heir apparent to tighten his grip on the firm ahead of a power transfer.
Lee has denied all charges, saying he was forced to make donations to entities including the K-Sports and Mir foundations set up and controlled by Choi.
In a session to review the warrant application, Samsung’s lawyers allegedly argued that Samsung Group never sought business favors from the government in return for the donations. They also allegedly said it is not necessary to detain Lee, citing he is not a flight risk.
The prosecution, on the other hand, claimed that detainment is necessary to uphold the law and justice, citing how the arrest will impact the ongoing investigation into the bribery allegations surrounding Park, Choi and local firms.
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