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Samsung heir Lee Jae-yong formally arrested in corruption investigation

The heir to the Samsung group, Lee Jae-yong, has been formally arrested on allegations of bribery, perjury and embezzlement. Prosecutors have ten days to indict the de facto head of South Korea's biggest company.

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Samsung heir arrested in corruption probe

The Seoul Central District Court issued the warrant for Lee Jae-Yong's arrest early Friday. The Samsung Group chief had spent the night at a detention center in the South Korean capital awaiting the decision on the second request by prosecutors for his arrest.

Prosecutors now have up to 10 days to indict Lee although they can seek an extension. The state special prosecutor's office said it was planning to indict the grandson of Samsung's founder on charges that go beyond previously cited bribery allegations. Lee is to be questioned again on Saturday. 

In a statement made after the 48-year-old Lee was detained, the Samsung Group said: "We will do our best to ensure that the truth is revealed in future court proceedings."

Lee will remain at the detention center, in a single cell with a TV and desk, a jail official said.

The court made the decision to allow the arrest this time because of the risk Lee might destroy evidence or flee, according to a spokesman. "We acknowledge the cause and necessity of the arrest," the judge ruled. The court had rejected the prosecutor's first attempt to arrest Lee in January due to lack of evidence.

However, the judge rejected the prosecution's request to arrest Samsung Electronics president Park Sang-jin.

Payments to the president

Investigators are to determine if Lee, who is also vice chairman of Samsung Electronics Co, was involved in paying $38 million (35.6 million euros) to benefit a close friend of the country's President Park Geun-hye. The deal is alleged to have been made in exchange for government support of Lee's management succession in the sprawling Samsung group.

Samsung has denied it made an unlawful offer or paid a bribe to the president in exchange for favors.

Lee, who is also known as Jay Y. Lee, was questioned for 15 hours on Monday. A spokesman for the prosecutor said on Tuesday they had found evidence of Lee concealing profits from criminal acts. He is also believed to have hidden assets overseas.

Südkorea Samsung Firmenzentrale (Reuters/Kim Hong-Ji)

Samsung's headquarters in Seoul

Samsung restructuring

Lee has been acting as head of the smartphone and electronics giant since his father Lee Kun-hee suffered a heart attack in 2014. The group is carrying out an ongoing restructuring to clear the route for Lee to assume control of the group. His arrest may jeopardize the project.

The investigation into Samsung is part of the wider one into dozens of other South Korean companies. They are believed to have given contributions to Choi Soon-sil, a close confidante of President Park, who has been impeached and her powers suspended.  A separate constitutional court will determine whether Park is ultimately removed from office.

jm/rt (Reuters, AFP)

Watch video 02:50

Prosecutors seek arrest of Samsung heir – Journalist Jason Strother in Seoul

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