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Samsung's Lee questioned for 22 hours in Korea bribery probe

Friday, January 13, 2017 - 09:23

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Prosecutors questioned Samsung Electronics Co vice-chairman and heir apparent for about 22 hours in an influence-peddling probe that has reached the highest levels of government and business in South Korea.

[SEOUL] Prosecutors questioned Samsung Electronics Co vice-chairman and heir apparent for about 22 hours in an influence-peddling probe that has reached the highest levels of government and business in South Korea.

Jay Y Lee was released early Friday morning after appearing at the special prosecutor's offices in central Seoul about 9:30am Thursday. Investigators have said Mr Lee, 48, is a suspect in their bribery investigation and that the charges may be widened to include allegations of embezzlement and breach of duty. The scion of Korea's richest family has previously denied any wrongdoing; Samsung declined further comment.

"Lee returned home at around 7:30am this morning," said Lee Kyu-Chul, a spokesman for the special prosecutor, in an telephone call.

"He has denied most of his allegations. Whether the prosecution will request an arrest warrant or not will be decided likely today or tomorrow."

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The influence-peddling scandal has gripped South Korea for months with millions taking to the streets to demand the ouster of President Park Geun-Hye.

Authorities are looking into whether Samsung and other chaebol business groups made payments to entities controlled by Choi Soon-Sil, a Park confidant, in exchange for political favours. In recent weeks, the investigation has homed in on Samsung and payments the company made to foundations controlled by Choi.

When Mr Lee appeared for questioning Thursday morning, he was surrounded by reporters, cameras and activists.

"I apologise to the Korean people that we couldn't show a better behaviour in this case," he said.

Prosecutors also questioned Samsung Electronics President Park Sang-Jin yesterday, prosecutors said in a text message overnight. Ms Park was president of the Korea Equestrian Federation, one entity allegedly involved in the Choi payments.

Investigators may broaden their efforts to other companies.

"The special prosecutor has plans to widen probe into other companies like SK and Lotte, but the schedules are not set yet," said the spokesman Mr Lee.

"The allegations are likely to be bribery."

Representatives of SK Group and Lotte Group had no comment as they have been not notified from prosecutors.

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