In a fresh blow to South Korea's largest conglomerate Samsung Electronics, its de facto chief, Lee Jae-yong, was indicted Tuesday on corruption charges linked to the political scandal that led to the ouster of South Korean President Park Geun-hye.
"Special prosecutors today indicted Samsung Electronics vice chairman Lee Jae-Yong... for bribery, embezzlement, hiding of assets overseas... and perjury," Lee Kyu-Chul, spokesman for the team probing the corruption and power abuse scandal that has seen President Park Geun-Hye impeached, said, according to AFP.
The indictment of Samsung Electronics' vice chairman is a huge hit for the company that dominates the South Korean economy. Lee was arrested last week over his alleged role in the corruption scandal, sending shock waves across the technology giant and standard-bearer for Asia's fourth-largest economy, Reuters reported.
Prosecutors alleged that Lee had given bribes worth $36 million to Park and her confidante Choi Soon-sil to help win government support for a smooth leadership transition from his ailing father to himself, multiple publications reported. Choi has been accused of using Park's presidential ties to extort several firms, including Samsung, and of influencing government policy in her favor.
The senior Lee was indicted in 2008 on charges of tax evasion and breach of trust. He was later convicted and then pardoned by a former president. When his father fell sick in May 2014, Lee Jae-yong took charge of the tech giant.
The indictment comes after a three-month investigation — which ended Tuesday after the country's acting leader refused a request for an extension — by a special prosecution team. Lee can now seek bail and the court has to make its first ruling within three months.
Just minutes after the prosecutor's announcement, Samsung group announced a series of preventive measures to improve its transparency, including dissolving its corporate strategy office — a high-level decision-making unit that’s been linked to the corruption investigation — as was reported by multiple media sources.
Vice Chairman Choi Gee-sung, who, along with four other Samsung officials, was indicted alongside Lee, will now step down, with affiliates instead to be managed by their respective boards and CEOs.
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