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S.Korean court rejects request to detain Samsung heir for bribery charge

Editor: zhangrui 丨Xinhua

01-19-2017 07:43 BJT

SEOUL, Jan. 19 (Xinhua) -- A South Korean court early Thursday rejected a request from prosecutors to detain the heir apparent of Samsung Group, the country's biggest family-controlled conglomerate, despite alleged charges of bribery, perjury and embezzlement.

The arrest warrant for Samsung Electronics Vice Chairman Lee Jae-yong was dismissed by the court, which made a marathon deliberation for almost 15 hours. The independent counsel team investigating the scandal involving President Park Geun-hye requested Lee's detention on Monday.

Lee, who had been waiting for the determination at the Seoul detention center, will return home immediately. The rejection indicated lack of evidence to prove charges, which the special prosecutors leveled against the Samsung heir.

The court said that it would be hard at the current stage to acknowledge the necessity for arrest in view of rooms for dispute over the quid-pro-quo and the illegal request for favors that justify the bribery case.

Samsung is suspected of bribing President Park's longtime confidante Choi Soon-sil and Choi's daughter in return for getting support from the national pension fund for the merger in July 2015 of two Samsung affiliates.

The merger to create a de-facto holding company was extremely crucial to the heir apparent to inherit the overall management control from his ailing father Chairman Lee Kun-hee who has been hospitalized for over two and a half years for heart attack.

Prosecutors contended that Park and Choi had shared private interests, saying Samsung provided about 43 billion won (37 million U.S. dollars) in financial assistance to two foundations and a German company controlled by Choi.

Samsung donated 20.4 billion won, the biggest among over 50 conglomerates, to Mir and K-Sports foundations. It signed a 21.3 billion-won contract with a Choi-owned firm in Germany to support the equestrian training of her daughter, while offering some 1.6 billion won to a winter sports center managed by Choi's niece.

In exchange for the kickbacks, President Park is suspected of ordering the former health and welfare minister, who is now in custody, to pressure the National Pension Service (NPS) into voting for the Samsung merger.

The NPS was then biggest shareholder of Samsung C&T, a construction unit which in effect became the holding company of Samsung after the merger. The impeached leader and the Samsung heir met face-to-face around the time of the merger.

Refuting the accusations, Lee's legal team reportedly denied any quid-pro-quo in the financial assistance, which it said had been provided for fear of getting business disbenefits when rejecting the president's request.

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