Lee Jae-yong (C) leader of the Samsung conglomerate, seen here during his February 17 arrest, will be indicted on bribery charges, the South Korean special prosecutor said Tuesday. A corruption scandal involving Samsung led to the impeachment of South Korean president Park Geun-hye. Photo by Sung Ui-chel/EPA
Feb. 28 (UPI) -- Lee Jae-yong, de facto head of South Korea's Samsung Group, will be indicted on bribery charges, the investigating independent counsel announced Tuesday.
The four-month investigation into Samsung's alleged involvement in a plan to bribe Choi Soon-sil, a now-jailed confidante of South Korean President Park Geon-hye, ends Tuesday. Nineteen indictments are expected, including those against five Samsung executives.
Prosecutors believe Lee, 48, also known as Jay Y. Lee, gave or promised about $36.3 million to Choi in exchange for the government's approval of a 2015 merger of two Samsung subsidiaries, Cheil Industries Inc. and Samsung C&T Corp. The merger was seen as critical to the succession of authority at family-run Samsung and put Lee firmly in control of the company.
Charges against Lee include bribery, embezzlement and hiding of assets overseas. He was arrested on Feb. 17 and has been detained since. Samsung denies it made any illegal payments to receive government support.
The expected indictments will bring the number of people charged in the corruption scandal to 30.
A broader investigation prompted the impeachment of President Park. She was impeached by South Korea's National Assembly on Dec. 9; a constitutional court is expected to hand down a ruling by mid-March on the impeachment's validity. She will lose her immunity to indictment if it is upheld.
"Samsung was directly linked to the influence-peddling scandal and was essential to the special prosecutor's investigation," said special prosecutor spokesman Lee Kyu-chul. "The indictment describes in detail the private conversation between Jay Y. Lee and President Park Geun-hye."