South Korean prosecutors charged Samsung heir Jay Y. Lee with bribery and embezzlement on Tuesday, the latest developments in a graft scandal that has rocked the country.
Jay Y. Lee, 48, was arrested on Feb. 17 over his alleged role in the corruption scandal involving impeached President Park Geun-hye, dealing a fresh blow to the standard-bearer for Asia’s fourth-largest economy.
The special prosecutor’s office said on Tuesday, the last day of its investigation, that it had charged Lee and four other executives.
Lee, third-generation leader of the tech giant, is accused of pledging $38 million in bribes to a company and organizations backed by President Park’s confidant, Choi Sooon-sil, to curry favor and cement his control of the conglomerate.
The funding included sponsorship of the equestrian career of Choi’s daughter. Samsung Group also said on Tuesday that it would leave the Korean Equestrian Federation that it heads.
Park, Choi and Lee have all denied wrongdoing. Based on the main charges levied against Lee, he could face up to 20 years in prison if convicted.
Lee in December promised to shut Samsung’s corporate strategy office, a key nerve center responsible for major initiatives such as investment in new businesses, amid accusations by politicians that it was a key organ for illicit lobbying efforts.
“It is a shock that Samsung completely dismantled the whole office, cutting the link between group affiliates as if it broke up a fleet,” Chung Sun-sup, chief executive of corporate research firm Chaebul.com, said.
A Samsung Group spokeswoman said it had not yet decided how the conglomerate would deal with group-level issues such as coordination among affiliates.
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