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Arrest of Samsung Chief Again Sought by South Korean Prosecution

Arrest of Samsung Chief Again Sought by South Korean Prosecution
Samsung Group chief Jay Y. Lee, a suspect in a graft investigation that may topple President Park Geun-hye, was sought to be arrested by South Korea's special prosecutor's office as it said that it would again seek a warrant to arrest Lee.
On Monday, questioned for more than 15 hours by the special prosecutor's office was Lee, the third-generation leader of the country's top conglomerate. The arrest of Samsung Electronics Co Ltd executive Park Sang-jin is also being sought by the prosecutor.
"We have filed for an arrest warrant for Vice Chairman Lee Jae-yong and President Park Sang-jin today," the prosecution office said in a statement, referring to the 48-year-old Samsung Group chief by his Korean name.
The prosecution's first request for a warrant to arrest the Samsung chief was rejected last month by the Seoul Central District Court.
Samsung’s strategic decision-making such as new investments and acquisitions could be potentially hampered if Lee is arrested it would deal a serious blow to Samsung, the world's biggest maker of smartphones, memory chips and flat-screen televisions.
The prosecution office said that Lee faced additional accusations in the latest arrest warrant request and the charges the two executives would face included bribery.
saying it would give a briefing on the details on Wednesday, the office declined to elaborate.
Some long-term operating decisions as well as his plans to consolidate management control of the group would be affected if Lee was arrested, said the head of corporate analysis firm CEO Score, Park Ju-gun.
But because they are run by professional managers, the impact on Samsung firms' near-term earnings would be limited.
To win support for a 2015 merger of two Samsung affiliates, Lee was accused of pledging payments to a company and organizations backed by Park's confidant, Choi Soon-sil, in its unsuccessful attempt last month to arrest Lee by the special prosecutor.
After accusations that she colluded with Choi to pressure big businesses to donate to two foundations set up to back the president’s policy initiatives, Park was impeached by parliament in December.
Both women deny wrongdoing.
Park, 65, has been stripped of her powers while the Constitutional Court decides whether to uphold the impeachment and she is the daughter of a former military ruler and remains in office.
Park would be South Korea's first elected leader to be forced from office and a presidential election would be held if the Constitutional Court rules to uphold the impeachment vote.
Previously accusing Lee in his capacity as Samsung chief of pledging 43 billion won ($38 million) to win support for the 2015 merger of Samsung C&T Corp and Cheil Industries Inc.m , the special prosecutor has focused on Samsung Group's relationship with Park.
Analysts have said that critical for the special prosecutor's case that ultimately targets Park is proving illicit dealings between Park, or those linked to her, and the Samsung Group.
The office had told parliament it needed to prolong its investigation, special prosecutor's spokesman Lee Kyu-chul told reporters earlier on Tuesday. For its current deadline of Feb. 28, the office can seek a 30-day extension.

Christopher J. Mitchell

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