[THE INVESTOR] The last hearing of Samsung Group heir and Vice Chairman Lee Jae-yong, who is suspected of bribing former President Park Geun-hye’s longtime confidante Choi Soon-sil, began in the afternoon on Aug. 4, following which a final ruling will be delivered next next week.
During the two previous hearings this week, a fierce court battle unfolded between the prosecution, claiming Lee masterminded the illicit lobbying schemes for Park and Choi, and the Samsung scion’s lawyers, arguing that they are trying to frame him.
Samsung's former No. 2 man denies heir’s involvement in corruption scandal
Starting from April 7, the court has held a total of 52 hearings.
Prosecutors said on Aug. 3 that Samsung had bribed Park through Choi in hopes of receiving favors to aid the power transition at the conglomerate from Samsung Chairman Lee Kun-hee to the junior Lee.
Samsung offered 43 billion won funds to businesses and organizations run by Choi and ran support programs for the equestrian career of her daughter Chung Yoo-ra.
The prosecution argued that Choi, in return, helped the conglomerate to successfully merge Samsung C&T and Cheil Industries in 2015 -- deemed an important process to solidify Lee’s control over the conglomerate’s crown jewel Samsung Electronics.
Choi had allegedly armed-twisted the Ministry of Health and Welfare to force the National Pension Service, which was the C&T’s largest shareholder, to cast its vote in favor of the merger despite opposition from other C&T shareholders, such as Elliott Management. NPS is controlled by the ministry.
“I have no business knowledge of the two affiliates and trends in the related segments. The merger was handled by CEOs of the two firms and the Future Strategy Office,” Lee said during questioning on Aug. 2.
The Future Strategy Office, a control tower that decided core management decisions for Samsung’s subsidiaries and affiliates, was dismembered in December since the influence-peddling scandal surround Park broke out late last year.
Choi Gee-sung, the former chief of Samsung’s control tower and Lee’s mentor, said during the hearing that he had served as the top decision maker for the conglomerate and gave the final approval to offer financial support for Choi and her daughter.
“I was concerned about potential risks of the support schemes (for Chung), but decided to do so since I did not expect it to develop into a bribery case,” said the former Samsung top executive.
“I did not report (about Chung) to Lee, thinking that having worked at Samsung for more than 40 years I would take responsibility and step down from my post if problems occur.”
By Kim Young-won (firstname.lastname@example.org)