SEOUL – In a big corporate scandal, the heir to the Samsung empire and four other top executives from the world’s biggest smartphone maker were indicted Tuesday on multiple charges including bribery and embezzlement, South Korean prosecutors said.
“Special prosecutors today indicted Samsung Electronics vice chairman Lee Jae-Yong… for bribery, embezzlement, hiding of assets overseas… and perjury,” said Lee Kyu-Chul, spokesman for the team probing the corruption and power abuse scandal that has seen President Park Geun-Hye impeached.
Lee was arrested earlier this month and the laying of formal charges against him and his colleagues makes them almost certain to face trial, casting new uncertainty over South Korea’s biggest firm as it seeks to recover from a humiliating recall.
The 48-year-old has effectively been at the helm of the conglomerate since his father suffered a heart attack in 2014.
Among other allegations, Lee is accused of paying nearly $40 million in bribes to a confidante of President Park’s to secure policy favours. Lee — who is also accused of concealing stolen assets — has denied all charges.
His colleagues face similar charges except for the perjury count.
The scandal centres on Choi Soon-Sil, who is accused of using her close ties with Park to force local firms to “donate” nearly $70 million to non-profit foundations, which Choi allegedly used for personal gain.
Samsung was the single biggest donor to the foundations. It is also accused of separately giving millions of euros to Choi to bankroll her daughter’s equestrian training in Germany.
Lee’s arrest marked the first for a Samsung chief and dealt a huge blow to the electronics giant’s corporate image.