SEOUL, Jan. 11 (UPI) -- A Samsung executive was named a suspect on Wednesday as part of a growing corruption probe in South Korea that has already led to the impeachment of the country's president.
Samsung Vice Chairman Lee Jae-yong is expected to be questioned on Thursday by a special prosecutor as to whether his company made payments to an associate of South Korean President Park Geun-hye to gain support of a merger.
Lee is accused of paying Choi Soon-sil, a childhood friend of Park, to help ensure a merger between Samsung C&T, it's construction division, with another company, Cheil Industries. Two other Samsung executives were questioned on Monday, but they were not named suspects in the probe.
Samsung admitted in December it gave more than $17 million to two foundations linked to Choi, but said it did not ask for any type of favors. Lee has turned over evidence to politicians during the investigation, and admitted he also helped Choi's daughter with a horse and money for her equestrian career.
Prosecutors currently allege Samsung donated $3.1 million to a company owned by Choi and her daughter in exchange for government support of the merger. When questioned in December by the South Korean parliament, Lee said he never required favors in return for any money handed to a company, or Choi's daughter.
Park's corruption scandal has roiled South Korea for months and drawn millions into the street to demand she vacate her office since being impeached.