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Prosecutors seek arrest warrant for Samsung chief

By
Chu Young-min, UPI News Korea
The prosecution sought an arrest warrant for Samsung Electronics Vice Chairman Lee Jae-yong as a part of its investigation over the controversial 2015 merger between two Samsung units, Cheil Industries, and Samsung C&T. Photo by Jeong Byung-hyuk/UPI News Korea
The prosecution sought an arrest warrant for Samsung Electronics Vice Chairman Lee Jae-yong as a part of its investigation over the controversial 2015 merger between two Samsung units, Cheil Industries, and Samsung C&T. Photo by Jeong Byung-hyuk/UPI News Korea

June 4 (UPI) -- Samsung Electronics Vice Chairman Lee Jae-yong faces the risk of returning to prison yet again.

On Thursday, the prosecution team in Lee's case sought an arrest warrant against the vice chairman in relation to the 2015 merger of two Samsung units. In response, the Seoul Central District Court announced that it will decide whether or not to issue the warrant on Monday.

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The unexpected application for arrest warrants came just two days after Lee's side asked a citizen's panel to review the case with the aim of avoiding indictment.

The prosecutors' office also applied for arrest warrants for two former Samsung executives, including former Samsung Group Vice Chairman Choi Gee-sung.

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When Cheil Industries merged with Samsung C&T in 2015, the three businessmen were suspected of artificially inflating the firm's value to beef up Lee's control over Samsung.

Prosecutors have also launched an accounting fraud probe into Cheil's affiliate, Samsung BioLogics, after the country's financial watchdog ruled in 2018 that the biopharmaceutical firm violated accounting rules.

Before the amalgamation between Cheil and Samsung C&T, Samsung BioLogics changed its accounting method. As a result, it turned a profit, which also helped increase Cheil's value.

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Lee was Cheil's largest shareholder, with a stake of 23.2 percent. However, Lee had no stake in Samsung C&T. By that logic, Cheil having a higher value meant profitable returns for the 51-year-old heir, prosecutors said.

Lee is the only son of the currently bed-ridden Samsung Chairman Lee Kun-hee, who collapsed in 2014 after suffering from a heart attack. As a result, Lee is now the de facto chief of Samsung Group in place of his father.

Wrapping up its 20-month-long investigation into the case, prosecutors summoned Lee twice last week. Lee has denied all the allegations against him, but he has a history of criminal charges.

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In February 2017, Lee served time for bribing the now-impeached South Korean president, Park Geun-hye, who helped Lee strengthen his grip over the Samsung conglomerate.

Lee was sentenced to five years in jail, but was let go the next year after an appeals court suspended the sentence. The Supreme Court overturned the verdict last year, sending it back to the high court for review.

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