Samsung boss back at work after avoiding arrest

Surprise outcome leaves leading South Korean politicians fuming as probe into presidential office scandal suffers setback

Samsung boss back at work after avoiding arrest

World Bulletin / News Desk

Samsung Vice Chairman Lee Jae-yong returned to work Thursday morning, having spent the previous day and night in detention awaiting news of an attempt by South Korean investigators to arrest him over a corruption scandal that led to the impeachment of the country’s president last month.

Seoul Central District Court denied a special probe team’s warrant request because it was “hard to find a reason, necessity, and appropriateness for the arrest at the current stage.”

Despite not being released until daybreak, the 48-year-old reportedly attended a meeting of senior company officials soon after being let go, and Samsung issued a statement of appreciation that “the merits of this case can now be determined without the need for detention.”

After repeated denials of paying tens of millions of dollars via a presidential confidante to secure government support for a merger of affiliates in 2015, Lee faces charges of bribery, embezzlement, and perjury.

He has effectively been in charge of Samsung since his father, Chairman Lee Kun-hee, had a heart attack in 2014.

The court’s decision drew a swift backlash, however, from influential politicians aligned with South Korea’s main opposition Democratic Party, which has taken a key role in raising allegations against President Park Geun-hye and close aides since October – while driving public anger through mass street rallies.

Moon Jae-in, currently the leading candidate to win a planned presidential election this year, described the rejection of Lee’s arrest warrant as “unexpected and very regrettable,” according to an aide cited by local news agency Yonhap.

Seoul Mayor Park Won-soon, also a potential contender for the top office, suggested in an online post that economic considerations had regrettably come ahead of establishing justice.

A spokesperson for the investigation insisted it would carry on “unperturbed” regardless of failing to secure the warrant.

With numerous prominent figures linked to the scandal already under arrest, the special probe team is set to continue examining any suspicious corporate donations in the coming weeks – while additionally questioning the suspended president herself next month.

Separately, Seoul’s Constitutional Court has until early June to rule on Park’s impeachment.

In the meantime, the country is being led by acting President and Prime Minister Hwang Kyo-ahn.

Güncelleme Tarihi: 19 Ocak 2017, 11:47