SEOUL Samsung Group leader Jay Y. Lee arrived at a prosecutor’s office in Seoul on Wednesday en route to a court hearing, where a judge will decide whether he should be arrested over his alleged role in a corruption scandal that has rocked South Korea.
The 48-year-old Lee, wearing a dark overcoat and purple necktie, did not answer questions from reporters as he entered the special prosecutor’s office, from where he was due to be driven to the Seoul Central District Court.
A special prosecutor on Monday said it would seek a warrant to arrest the third-generation leader of the country’s largest conglomerate on suspicion of bribery, embezzlement and perjury.
Lee, questioned last week for 22 straight hours at the prosecutor’s office in Seoul, has denied wrongdoing.
The influence-peddling scandal led parliament last month to impeach President Park Geun-hye, a decision that if upheld by the Constitutional Court will see her become the country’s first democratically-elected leader forced from office early.
Park, 64, has denied wrongdoing.
The hearing is scheduled to begin at 10:30 a.m. (0130 GMT) and it is possible that the judge’s decision may not be announced until after midnight, a court official told Reuters on Tuesday.
The special prosecutor has accused Lee of paying bribes totalling 43 billion won ($36.70 million) to organisations linked to Choi Soon-sil, a friend of the president who is at the centre of the scandal, to secure the 2015 merger of two affiliates and cement his control of the family business.
Earlier this week, the special prosecutor indicted the chairman of the National Pension Service (NPS), the world’s third-largest pension fund, on charges of abuse of power and giving false testimony.
NPS chairman Moon Hyung-pyo was arrested in December after acknowledging ordering it to support the controversial $8 billion merger in 2015 of the two Samsung Group [SAGR.UL] affiliates while heading the health ministry, which oversees the NPS.
Jay Y. Lee became the group’s de facto leader after his father, Lee Kun-hee, was incapacitated by a 2014 heart attack.
On Tuesday, the special prosecutor’s office said it did not seek arrest warrants for three other Samsung Group executives that also underwent questioning, in order to minimise the impact on Samsung business.
The group’s flagship, Samsung Electronics (005930.KS), is the world’s biggest maker of smartphones, flatscreen TVs and memory chips.
(Reporting by Ju-min Park, Se Young Lee and Christine Kim; Writing by Tony Munroe; Editing by Nick Macfie)