The independent probe team that is looking into the influence-peddling and corruption scandal involving President Park Geun-hye and her friend is likely to seek an arrest warrant again for Lee Jae-yong, sources said Sunday.
The team, led by Special Counsel Park Young-soo, is mulling over whether to again try to get an arrest warrant for the Samsung Group's de facto heir apparent after it finishes a face-to-face investigation of the president early next month.
"Since this is the last chance (to seek a warrant), we will be perfectly prepared to do so," a person from the team told Yonhap News Agency. Under the law, the team's investigation will be wrapped up at the end of February, although it is possible for it to be extended for another 30 days.
Vice Chairman of Samsung Electronics Lee Jae-yong (Yonhap)
On Jan. 19, a local court rejected the issuing of an arrest warrant for the vice chairman of Samsung Electronics Co. on charges of bribery, embezzlement and perjury. The team believes that Lee ordered his company to give tens of millions of dollars to the president's friend Choi Soon-sil in return for the state-run pension fund's backing of a merger of two Samsung affiliates.
The court said at that time, "It is hard to find a reason, necessity and appropriateness for the arrest at the current stage," adding that key issues, such as whether the money was for any kind of reciprocal favors, are still debated.
Last weekend, the team summoned Hwang Sung-soo, a senior executive at Samsung Electronics and vice chairman of the Korea Equestrian Federation, for questioning over Samsung's role in supporting Choi's daughter, Chung Yoo-ra.
It also called in several people, including a former official at the federation and a former coach for Chung, to investigate what illegal requests, if any, Samsung Group made in return for huge financial support for Chung.
It is said that the team has secured pieces of circumstantial evidence that Samsung voluntarily supported Chung by, for example, promising her a new expensive horse, which is against its former claims that it was coerced by the president to cough up the money. (Yonhap)