Arrest warrant issued for Samsung chair

- The billionaire heir to Samsung, South Korea's most successful and best known conglomerate, made his second attempt Thursday to block efforts by prosecutors to arrest him on bribery and other charges in connection with a corruption scandal that has engulfed the country's president.

Prosecutors accuse Lee in his capacity as head of South Korea's largest conglomerate, or chaebol, of pledging 43 billion won ($37.74 million) to a business and organisations backed by Park's friend, Choi Soon-sil, in exchange for support of a 2015 merger of two Samsung companies.

Samsung was the biggest donor among dozens of South Korean companies that gave a total of almost $70 million to two non-profit foundations controlled by Choi.

The decision by the Seoul Central District Court on Friday to allow the arrest of Lee, vice president of the electronics giant, means that he will be the first leader in Samsung's history to be held on criminal charges.

Despite the fact that there is no risk for Lee to take flight or destroy evidence, the court's decision to grant an arrest warrant against Lee suggested that the case of Lee may be tied to the fate of Park, legal experts said.

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

In December 2016, the South Korean Parliament approved Park's dismissal. Samsung also transferred millions of euros to Choi's company in Germany that financed the equestrian training of Choi's daughter and funded a winter sports center operated by Choi's niece.

The corruption scandal erupted late past year and has engulfed South Korea's political and business elite.

The court dismissed prosecutors' request to arrest Park Sang-jin, a president at Samsung Electronics overseeing external relations, saying that it was hard to justify Mr Park's arrest given his position and role within the company. The prosecutors also brought up accusations on Lee of hiding assets overseas and concealing profit gained from criminal acts.

During last month's investigation Samsung denied providing Choi and her associates with financial aid in return for favours, while Lee himself denied all charges, none of which have been proven in court. The charges he and Lee face also include bribery and embezzlement.

Samsung said in a statement on Wednesday it had "not paid bribes nor made improper requests to the president seeking favours".

With more than three decades at Samsung, Choi has been deeply involved in preparing a plan for Jay Y. Lee to assume control of the group from his father, who was incapacitated by a 2014 heart attack. According to JoonAng Daily, the National Pension Service also happened to be the largest shareholder of Samsung C&T - and the deal was criticized as unfair for Samsung C&T.


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