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Top Samsung executive interrogated amid South Korea corruption scandal

Lee Jae-yong has so far denied any wrongdoing.

By Elizabeth Shim
Top Samsung executive interrogated amid South Korea corruption scandal
The vice chairman of Samsung, South Korea’s largest conglomerate, was interrogated on Tuesday. South Korean lawmakers are investigating if Samsung sought favors by cooperating with Choi Soon-sil, a corruption suspect. Photo by Yonhap News Agency/UPI

SEOUL, Dec. 6 (UPI) -- A committee of South Korean lawmakers questioned a top Samsung executive on Tuesday after one of the company's subsidiaries was allegedly involved in financing the equestrian activities of the daughter of a corruption suspect.

Samsung Group vice chairman Lee Jae-yong, who is expected to lead the company after his father Lee Kun-hee steps down, took questions from a bipartisan group of parliamentarians but denied granting favors for "benefits in return," South Korean news agency Yonhap reported.

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The response followed allegations from ruling party lawmaker Lee Man-hee, who said, "Samsung provided [$8.5 million] to the family of Choi [Soon-sil] so [her daughter] Chung Yoo-ra could purchase horses in Europe."

Lee then asked the Samsung executive whether the funds were being used to prepare Chung for the "2018 Olympics," although Chung "ranks 560th in the international sport of dressage."

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The comment may have been made in sarcasm, as the upcoming 2018 Winter Olympics will not include tournaments for horseback riding.

Choi is suspected of influencing South Korean President Park Geun-hye's decisions both in and out of office. South Korean prosecutors have already linked Choi to the embezzlement of funds while she gained access to classified government documents.

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Lawmakers had requested Lee's presence at the hearing in order to investigate whether a corporate plan to merge Samsung C&T Corporation and Cheil Industries, two subsidiaries of the Samsung Group, motivated the company's decision to donate to Choi.

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The two firms merged in May 2015.

Lee denied any ulterior motives for donations to the corruption suspect but said he would not evade criminal responsibility, local news service News 1 reported.

The Samsung executive also denied meeting Choi or Cha Eun-taek, an advertising director who has been linked to the corruption scandal.

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Investigations into Choi are ongoing. According to local newspaper Hankook Ilbo, a special prosecutor has received one ton of evidence related to Choi.

The records are under review according to Park Young-soo, who has pledged to seek a bribery charged against Park.

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