Business

Bribery scandal investigation finds Samsung heir and President of South Korea at fault

The special prosecutor’s office of South Korea said earlier today that the country’s President Park Geun-hye colluded with her friend Choi Soon-sil to receive bribes from the Samsung Group which were aimed at cementing the control of Samsung heir Lee Jae-yong over the entire conglomerate. Special prosecutor Park Young-soo announced the results of the influence-peddling scandal today and the conclusion is more or less similar to what has been alleged in the media for months.

Reports claimed that the Samsung Group had paid more than $35 million in bribes by making contributions to organizations and foundations controlled by Choi Soon-sil in order to win the government’s backing for a 2015 merger between two Samsung affiliates that allowed the company’s founding Lee family to further enhance its control of the empire. The merger went through after South Korea’s state-backed National Pension Service, a major shareholder in one of those affiliates, gave its nod of approval.

The prosecutor’s statement mentions that the findings have revealed that the National Pension Service voted in favor of the merger even though it anticipated a 138.8 billion won ($119.87 million) loss because of it. The report says that Lee pledged 43 billion won ($37.19 million) to win support for the merger from the president and also for the domestic listing of Samsung Biologics, a loss-making drug manufacturing affiliate of the conglomerate.

This now paves the way for prosecutors to investigate the impeached President Park if she’s told to leave office by the Constitutional Court that’s reviewing her impeachment. The possibility exists that she might also be indicted for bribery.

Park, Choi and Lee have all contested the charges against them. Samsung maintains that the conglomerate did not pay bribes or make contributions to seek favors, adding that “future court proceedings will reveal the truth.” Samsung heir Lee Jae-yong has been behind bars for a couple of weeks now after he arrested and indicted on several charges including bribery. His trial is scheduled to begin later this week.

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