One of South Korea’s most powerful business leaders is to be interrogated as a suspect Thursday morning just weeks after President Park Geun-hye was impeached over the same influence-peddling scandal.
It emerged Wednesday afternoon that Samsung Vice Chairman Lee Jae-yong has been summoned to appear at 9.30 a.m. (0030GMT) on bribery claims -- a special probe team spokesperson admitted at a press briefing there is a possibility of seeking an arrest warrant.
Lee already appeared before prosecutors in November and then at a televised parliamentary hearing a month later on Dec. 6.
He has denied buying any favors, but allegations have persisted because of suspicions surrounding the state-run pension fund’s support for a Samsung merger in 2015.
Since taking over from state prosecutors last month, independent investigators have been building a case against Samsung for financially supporting the suspended president’s now notorious private confidante Choi Soon-sil.
Lee will be grilled about his company’s apparent 22 billion won ($18.4 million) contract with a German company under the ownership of Choi and her daughter Chung Yoo-ra -- an equestrian star who was caught hiding in Denmark on New Year’s Day after leaving her base in Germany.
With Samsung Chairman Lee Kun-hee still in hospital following a heart attack in 2014, his son and heir apparent will also have to deal with his own admission that the conglomerate gave Chung a horse worth 1 billion won ($837,000) as well as large donations to nonprofit foundations linked to Choi allegedly at the request of the president.
This has all done little harm to Samsung Electronics’ performance, which reached a new record-high on the local stock index Wednesday, having last week announced an expected fourth-quarter operating profit of 9.2 trillion won ($7.7 billion).