World

Samsung scion questioned for 22 hours

Samsung billionaire leader in 22-hour police questioning over South Korea presidential corruption scandal

SEOUL: Mr Jay Y. Lee, head of South Korea's Samsung Group, had a 6,000 won (S$7) box lunch and did not sleep in over 22 hours of questioning in a corruption scandal involving impeached President Park GeunHye.

Mr Lee, who has a net worth of US$6.2 billion (S$8.9 billion) and is the third-generation leader of the country's biggest conglomerate, or chaebol, left the special prosecutors' office in Seoul yesterday morning in what appeared to be the same suit and tie he wore when he entered a day earlier.

The tall, bespectacled 48-year-old did not look affected by the session, in which he was questioned by two prosecutors, including one nicknamed the "Chaebol Sniper" for his record in previous high-profile corporate investigations.

Mr Lee did not speak to reporters before getting into a waiting car.

"Two prosecutors interrogated him, and they went in and out of the room to report to their chief," a prosecution official told Reuters. "None of them - prosecutors or Jay Lee - slept before the questioning was over," the official said.

The official, who declined to be named due to the sensitivity of the matter, said Mr Lee's lawyer was present during the questioning.

Prosecutors are investigating whether Samsung provided 30 billion won to business entities backed by the president's friend Choi SoonSil in exchange for support for a 2015 merger of two Samsung affiliates.

Mr Lee was named as a suspect on Wednesday and summoned on Thursday morning.

He became the de facto head of the Samsung Group after his father Lee Kun Hee had a heart attack in 2014.

Samsung has acknowledged making payments to two foundations at the centre of the scandal, as well as to a consulting firm controlled by Choi, but has denied accusations of lobbying to push through the merger of Samsung C&T and Cheil Industries.

IMPEACHED

Park was impeached in December but has denied wrongdoing. Choi, who is in detention as she undergoes trial, has also denied wrongdoing.

After his sleepless night, Mr Lee went directly to Samsung headquarters in Seoul's upscale Seocho district, a few kilometres from the special prosecutors' office, a Samsung spokesman said.

Asked why the questioning lasted so long, a prosecution spokesman told a briefing: "There was quite a lot to look into and Lee's statements conflicted with what our investigation team expected to hear."

After his box lunch, Mr Lee had jajangmyeon, a cheap Chinese black bean paste noodle dish, for dinner, according to the special prosecutor's team.

Mr Lee will not be summoned for questioning again, a prosecution spokesman said. But he added that prosecutors will decide soon whether to arrest him. - REUTERS

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