Officials representing President Park Geun-hye said Friday they were shocked by the arrest of the de-facto head of the country's No. 1 conglomerate Samsung Group, but made clear the move does not necessarily prove the chief executive is guilty.
Lee Jae-yong, vice chairman of the world's leading tech giant Samsung Electronics Co., was arrested earlier in the day on charges that included bribery in connection with the high-profile scandal surrounding the president and her confidante.
|President Park Geun-hye (L), and Lee Jae-yong, vice chairman of Samsung Electronics Co. (Yonhap)|
Park was impeached by the parliament in December on allegations her confidante Choi Soon-sil exerted influence on state affairs without any seat in the administration and pursued personal benefits under her nose.
Samsung earlier admitted to making contributions to two nonprofit foundations -- K-Sports and Mir -- allegedly controlled by Choi and her Germany-based firm, but denied the move came with the intention to win the government's backing for a merger between two of its affiliates.
"It is shocking. The establishment of the Mir and K-Sports foundations are not related with Samsung's power secession," an official of Park said. "We need to wait and see if (the contribution) constitutes bribery."
Park and her lawyers have maintained both K-Sports and Mir were created with the best of intentions to support the country's sports and cultural sectors. The president has insisted that she knew nothing of any wrongdoings committed by those under her or her long-time friend, and she certainly did not take any bribes.
In 2015, Samsung merged two of its affiliates in an apparent bid to enhance heir apparent Lee Jae-yong's control of the group, despite possible losses to other shareholders. His father, Lee Kun-hee, has been hospitalized since May 2014 after suffering a heart attack.
Prosecutors suspect Samsung supported Choi in return for her exerting influence on the president so as to get the National Pension Service, a major shareholder, to approve the conglomerates merger.
"Lee has only been arrested. He has not been found guilty of charges leveled against him. We need to take a look at the trial procedures," another official said.
"We are concerned that the independent counsel will cross the line even further in terms of the probe. But the impeachment trial and the arrest of Lee are two different cases. The impeachment proceedings only consider whether or not the president violated the Constitution. There will be more intense legal disputes to come," another official said. (Yonhap)