World Bulletin / News Desk
A South Korean judge began deliberating Wednesday whether to formally arrest the heir to the Samsung empire over his alleged role in a corruption scandal engulfing President Park Geun-Hye.
The potential detention of the de facto head of a giant conglomerate -- whose revenues are equivalent to a fifth of the country's GDP -- raised concerns over its possible wider impact.
Samsung is the country's largest exporter and world's biggest smartphone maker, and the top-selling Chosun Ilbo newspaper said the firm could face a "global beating" from authorities in major trading partners, including Washington.
"If Lee faces legal punishment, the US government could review measures to slap sanctions on Samsung under the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA)," the paper said in a front-page article.
It warned that Samsung's global brand image -- which took a pounding over last year's Galaxy Note 7 recall debacle -- would also be further tarnished.
Prosecutors said Monday they would seek an arrest warrant for Lee on suspicion of bribery, embezzlement and perjury in connection with the scandal which has already seen President Park impeached.
It centres on Park's secret confidante, Choi Soon-Sil, who is accused of using her ties with the president to coerce top local firms to "donate" nearly $70 million to dubious non-profit foundations which she used for her personal benefit.
Samsung is the single biggest contributor to the foundations and separately paid Choi millions of euros, allegedly to bankroll her daughter's equestrian training in Germany.
In total, Samsung is allegedly implicated in payments of 43 billion won ($36.4 million) although Lee has denied any wrongdoing during a 22 hour marathon questioning last week.
"The key point is whether any favours were given. We explained our position very clearly," Lee's attorney told reporters after Wednesday's hearing.
The court ordered Lee to wait at a detention facility on the outskirts of Seoul for the judge's ruling, a court spokesman said, with the decision not expected to be reached until late Wednesday night or early Thursday morning.Last Mod: 18 Ocak 2017, 10:21