The de facto leader of Samsung, Lee Jae-yong, was arrested today on bribery and other charges in connection to a corruption scandal.
Lee, the 48-year-old Samsung Electronics vice chairman, is charged with bribery, embezzlement, perjury, concealment of criminal proceeds and illicit transfer of assets abroad.
Investigators believe Lee, Samsung’s heir-apparent following the hospitalisation of his father, chairman Lee Kun-hee, three years ago, made donations of as much as US$37.6 million to foundations controlled by a friend of South Korean president Park Geun-hye in exchange for government support for the 2015 merger of Cheil Industries and Samsung C&T.
The arrest of Lee came shortly after a court issued a warrant in the second attempt by the special counsel to arrest him.
He was already being held at a detention centre after appearing in court on Thursday as judges deliberated whether to issue an arrest warrant.
Lee and the Samsung Group deny any wrongdoing.
“We will do our best to ensure that the truth is revealed in future court proceedings,” the Samsung group said in a brief statement following his arrest.
It comes as Samsung Electronics is scrambling to revive the fortunes of its mobile business following the costly debacle over the Galaxy Note 7 smartphone last year.
Samsung watchers have said Lee’s arrest would not affect the day-to-day running of group companies including Samsung Electronics, which are run by professional managers, but a prolonged absence could impact longer-term and strategic decision making.