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Samsung vice chairman questioned again in South Korea influence-peddling scandal

Samsung head Lee Jae-yong has once again appeared before prosecutors as part of South Korea's political corruption probe. Investigators are reportedly considering a second arrest warrant against the Samsung heir.

The vice chairman and heir of Samsung, Lee Jae-yong, on Monday faced a second round of questioning as part of an influence-peddling scandal that has rocked South Korea's government and threatens to topple President Park Geun-hye.

Lee told reporters as he entered the prosecution office in Seoul: "I will once again tell the truth to the special prosecution."

Lee is accused of "donating" 43 million won ($37.3 million) to nonprofit foundations run by Park's confidante Choi Soon-sil in a bid to receive favors from the president in return. Prosecutors are investigating whether the payments made by Samsung, South Korea's largest industrial group, were part of a bid to secure official approval for a controversial 2015 merger between two of the firm's units.

The merger reportedly smoothed the transition of ownership over to Lee from his father. While still technically the vice chairman, Lee Jae-yong effectively took over the helm of Samsung after his father suffered a heart attack in 2014.

All parties have denied the bribery charges.

South Korea's parliament impeached Park in December, although South Korea's Constitutional Court is still mulling over whether to uphold the impeachment.

Investigators considering arrest warrant against Samsung executive

Prosecutors are reportedly considering whether to issue a renewed arrest warrant against the Samsung heir based on the outcome of Monday's questioning. Two other senior Samsung executives were also questioned as criminal suspects on Monday, according to a prosecution spokesperson.

Investigators had issued a warrant against Lee in January, before it was rejected by a Seoul court due to a lack of evidence.

Südkorea Seoul Gerichtsverfahren gegen Choi Soon-Sil, Freundin von Präsidentin Park Geun-Hye (Getty Images/AFP/Chung Sung-Jun)

Choi Soon-sil, a secret confidant of South Korea's president, has denied all charges of corruption and bribery.

South Korean government rattled by scandal

Prosecutors have also sought to question Park over her role in the scandal. Her office has yet to agree on how and when to do it.

Park's aides have also blocked officials with a court-issued warrant from searching the Blue House, citing a law that blocks the searching of sites containing state secrets.

The head of South Korea's state pension fund, Moon Hyung-pyo, was detained in December on charges that he pressured the National Pension Service to sanction the Samsung merger despite warnings from investors that it wilfully unvalued the shares of the firms. The fund's stake in one of the firms lost an estimated hundreds of millions of dollars in value on the back of the merger.

dm/jm (Reuters, AP, AFP)

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