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Samsung executive under scrutiny again in political scandal

Lee Jae-yong was aware of financial support for Choi Soon-sil, Seoul prosecutors say.

By Elizabeth Shim
Samsung executive under scrutiny again in political scandal
Reporters in South Korea gather to watch Choi Soon-sil being escorted to the prosecutor’s office last October. The scandal has led to the impeachment of South Korean President Park Geun-hye and interrogations of Samsung executives. Photo by Yonhap News Agency/UPI

Feb. 13 (UPI) -- South Korean prosecutors interrogated Samsung's de facto chief executive Lee Jae-yong for the second time on Monday.

Lee, also known as Jay Y. Lee, is the vice chairman of Samsung Group, the parent company of the $200-billion company Samsung Electronics.

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Lee and four other Samsung executives were questioned for their involvement in a corruption scandal involving South Korean President Park Geun-hye and her longtime acquaintance Choi Soon-sil, South Korean newspaper Hankyoreh reported.

Lee and the executives are suspected of giving a total of $37.7 million in bribes not to Park, but to special interests that include the two "charitable" foundations under Choi's supervision.

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"We will investigate the vice chairman today and decide whether to request a warrant [for his arrest] after the review," said Lee Kyu-chul, a spokesman for the prosecution.

Samsung has admitted giving $17.5 million in donations to Choi's foundations in December, but denied seeking favors in return.

Prosecutors have said Samsung may have made a separate donation of $3.1 million to Choi's organization to seek support for a merger between a construction firm and an affiliate company under Samsung's supervision, according to the BBC.

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The prosecution also believes there was a meeting involving Lee and Samsung Electronics chief executive Park Sang-jin on July 27, 2016. The 30-minute meeting may have included discussions of financial support for Choi's daughter Chung Yoo-ra's equestrian activities.

One of Choi's organizations, the Mir Foundation, is also believed to have benefited from government projects in Africa, according to local television network JTBC.

Documents for "Korea Aid," a Seoul project that supplies millions of dollars toward development, indicate Mir Foundation had designed the ventures that included bringing ambulances, food trucks, and "cultural video" trucks to specific countries.

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