World

From mansion to tiny cell with no shower

Samsung boss kept apart from other inmates in detention

SEOUL: For Lee Jae Yong, the third-generation leader of South Korea's massive Samsung Group and scion of the country's wealthiest family, home is now a 6.56 sq m detention cell with a toilet in the corner behind a partition.

He has no shower, only a washstand. Bed is a mattress on the floor.

The 48-year-old was arrested early yesterday for his alleged role in a corruption scandal that led to the impeachment of President Park Geun Hye, a decision that is being reviewed by the country's Constitutional Court.

He has denied any wrongdoing.

Lee is being held in a single cell and will not be allowed contact with other inmates, said an official at the Seoul Detention Centre, a facility on the outskirts of the city where arrested politicians and corporate chieftains are usually held, along with other detainees.

"This is a highly public case, and as you know, many involved in the case are already here," the official told Reuters.

Prison officials don't want Lee discussing the case with others involved in it, the official said, explaining why the Samsung scion was being held in a single cell. Also, there may be safety issues.

"There are concerns about destroying evidence," the official said, adding that Lee was not being given special treatment.

Lee, who is divorced with two children, has a net worth of US$6.2 billion (S$8.7 billion) and ordinarily lives in a US$4 million Seoul mansion.

He will be given simple 1,443 won (S$1.75) meals, usually rice with side dishes. Anything additional must be bought at the centre's commissary.

Meals will be served on plastic trays slid through a small square window in the cell door.

Lee is required to wash his own tray. Inside the cell, he can watch television between 8am and 6pm, but only a single channel with recorded programmes broadcast by the Justice Ministry.

Fellow inmates include Choi SoonSil, a friend of President Park who is at the centre of the scandal and who Lee is accused of bribing, as well as the country's former culture minister and former presidential chief of staff. - REUTERS

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