South Korean court dismisses arrest warrant for Samsung chief

Samsung Group chief, Jay Y. Lee, leaves after attending a court hearing to review a detention warrant request against him at the Seoul Central District Court in Seoul, South Korea, January 18, 2017. [Photo/Agencies]

SEOUL – A South Korean court on Thursday dismissed a warrant to arrest the head of the Samsung Group , the country’s largest conglomerate, amid a graft scandal that has led to the impeachment of President Park Geun-hye.

The pre-dawn decision by the Seoul Central District Court to allow Jay Y. Lee to go home is likely to come as a major relief to Samsung Group, which the 48-year-old has led after his father and founding Lee family patriarch Lee Kun-hee was incapacitated after a May 2014 heart attack.

Lee, who had been questioned for 22 hours last week and was held overnight on Wednesday while the court reached its decision, is still under investigation for bribery, embezzlement and perjury and could still be arrested at a later date.

He left the Seoul Detention Centre carrying a white shopping bag and climbed into a car without talking to reporters.

The special prosecutor sought an arrest warrant against Lee, charging him of bribing Park’s confidant Choi Soon-sil to win key support from South Korea’s National Pension Service in order to secure a controversial 2015 merger of two Samsung Group affiliates. The merger helped cement his control over the smartphones-to-biopharmaceuticals business empire.

The judge said in a statement on his ruling to deny the warrant that an arrest now was not necessary, however.

“After reviewing the contents and the process of the investigation so far … it is difficult to acknowledge the necessity and substantiality of an arrest at the current stage,” he said.

Samsung said in an emailed statement that it appreciated “the fact that the merits of this case can now be determined without the need for detention”. The group’s flagship, Samsung Electronics, is the world’s biggest maker of smartphones, flat-screen televisions and memory chips.

The special prosecutor’s office said it will make a statement on the court’s ruling at 10 a.m. (0100 GMT) Thursday without elaborating further.

The special prosecutor’s office on Monday said it would seek a warrant to arrest the group’s third-generation leader. Lee has denied wrongdoing.

Source: China Daily

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