- Title: Samsung Group says does not accept bribery accusations
- Date: 16th January 2017
- Summary: SEOUL, SOUTH KOREA (FILE - 2016) (REUTERS) EXTERIOR OF SAMSUNG ELECTRONICS BUILDING FLAGS OF SAMSUNG (LEFT AND RIGHT) AND SOUTH KOREAN NATIONAL FLAG (CENTRE) FLAG OF SAMSUNG
- Embargoed: 30th January 2017 09:57
- Keywords: south korea samsung special prosecutors arrest warrant jay y. lee political scandal
- Location: SEOUL, SOUTH KOREA
- City: SEOUL, SOUTH KOREA
- Country: South Korea
- Topics: Government/Politics
- Reuters ID: LVA0015ZBXQO5
- Aspect Ratio: 16:9
- Story Text:South Korean conglomerate Samsung Group on Monday (January 16) said it could not accept the special prosecutors' accusations that its leader, Jay Y. Lee, paid bribes to further his succession or the merger of two affiliates in 2015.
Samsung, whose companies generate $230 billion in revenue, equivalent to about 17 percent of South Korea's economy, rejected the accusation that Lee paid bribes.
"It is difficult to understand the special prosecutors' decision. We have never supported to be rewarded," it said in an emailed statement.
The special prosecutor's office accused Lee of paying bribes totaling 43 billion won ($36.42 million) to organizations linked to Choi Soon-sil, a friend of the president Park Geun-hye, who is at the centre of the scandal, in order to secure the 2015 merger of two affiliates and cement his control of the family business.
Last week, Lee was questioned for 22 straight hours as investigators probed a corruption scandal that resulted in parliament impeaching Park last month.
The 48-year-old Lee, who became the de facto head of the Samsung Group after his father, Lee Kun-hee, was incapacitated by a heart attack in 2014, was also accused of embezzlement and perjury, according to the prosecution's application for an arrest warrant.
Prosecutors have been looking into whether Samsung's support for foundations and a company backed by Choi was linked to the National Pension Service's 2015 decision to support a controversial $8 billion merger of Samsung C&T Corp. and Cheil Industries Inc.
Samsung has acknowledged providing funds to the institutions but has repeatedly denied accusations of lobbying to push through the merger.
Public opinion has in recent years grown less tolerant of leniency extended to the heads of conglomerates, or chaebols, for the sake of the economy.
"In the name of reviving the economy, there have been many benefits. But at this time, watching it apply to laws and principles, I feel very reassured," a 40-year-old South Korean resident, Ha Joon-suk, said.
However, some people opposed to Lee's arrest as they worry about possible negative impact on the country's economy.
"I am absolutely opposed to the arrest of Samsung's vice chairman Jay Y. Lee. As a representative company of Republic of Korea, if that company goes out of business, our people would have a hard time. In the sense of saving the company and also in a legal sense so far, he should not be arrested," a 72-year-old Lee Hee-rak, said.
Shares in flagship Samsung Electronics, the world's biggest maker of smartphones, flat-screen TVs and memory chips, ended 2.14 percent lower, under-performing the 0.61 percent drop in the broader market.
Investors say that while key Samsung businesses are run by professional CEOs and would not be hurt on an operational basis if Lee is arrested, his absence would slow bigger-picture decision-making.
Lee is due to appear on Wednesday (January 18) morning at the Seoul central district court, which will decide whether to grant the arrest warrant.
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