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Seoul court to decide on Samsung heir’s arrest

IANS | Seoul |

The Seoul Central District Court will on Thursday decide whether to order the arrest of Samsung group's heir Lee Jae-yong, a media report said.

The Vice President of Samsung Electronics is being investigated for his involvement in the "South Korean Female Rasputin" corruption scandal.

Lee Jae-yong appeared in the court an hour before the start of the hearing, which was scheduled at 10.30 am local time, Efe news reported. 

During the hearing, the judges would decide on his arrest, which was requested by the prosecutors in the case.

The head of South Korea's largest business conglomerate is facing his second arrest warrant in the bribery case that lead to the impeachment of South Korean President Park Geun-hye in 2016.

South Korea is trying to establish whether the 48-year-old de facto leader of Samsung instructed the financial support to Choi Soon-sil, nicknamed the "Female Rasputin," in exchange for the government's backing for a merger between two of the group's subsidiaries.

On Tuesday, the prosecutors investigating the corruption scandal called for a new arrest warrant against Lee, after a local court rejected a previous request in January.

The court back then argued that it was not clear whether the donations were made in exchange for favours, but prosecutors said that after three weeks of additional investigations they have obtained new evidence against Lee.

In addition to bribery, the prosecution also accuses Lee of embezzlement and perjury for having given several versions of the events during his appearances in courts.

Lee and other Samsung personnel admitted having paid about $37 million to entities allegedly controlled by Choi but they deny that it was to get support for the merger process in 2015.

Lee Jae-yong took over the Samsung conglomerate in October 2016, after his father, Lee Kun-hee, suffered a heart attack in May 2014, which still keeps him hospitalised and unable to communicate.

Choi is still in detention since her arrest in October 2016 when she was charged with colluding with Park to create a network of corruption in which the President, members of her government and the main business conglomerates of the country were apparently involved.

In December 2016, the South Korean Parliament approved Park's dismissal. The final decision is now in the hands of the Constitutional Court, which has until June to decide in favour or against the impeachment.