S Korea prosecutors seek arrest warrant for Samsung heir apparent

Mr Lee jnr ensnared in corruption scandal

Samsung's been pulled deeper into "Choi-gate" – the scandal surrounding the South Korean president. Prosecutors in the country today applied for an arrest warrant for Samsung's de facto boss, Lee Jae-yong.

The scandal revolves around impeached President Park Geun-hye's informal advisor Choi Soon-sil, whose father, Choi Tae-min*, started a religious sect (the Church of Eternal Life) in 1974.

Choi is accused of extorting $75m from Korea's largest chaebol (conglomerate of companies) via charities-cum-foundations that she controlled. The payments were either coerced out of the companies or were rewards for political favours, prosecutors claim. South Korea's parliament voted to impeach President Park Geun-hye in December.

Prosecutors allege that Samsung paid $36m into Choi's foundations. The Lee family controls Samsung despite owning less than 5 per cent of its stock. Mr Lee is vice chairman of Samsung Electronics, but has run the entire group as the only son of his father, who suffered a heart attack in 2014.

In 2009, Mr Lee Snr was convicted of tax evasion and trying to help his son buy Samsung stock at an artificially low price, which would have helped the younger man take control of Samsung.

"A basic responsibility for all Samsung executives is to do illegal lobbying, buying people with money," a former executive alleged to prosecutors in 2007. After his conviction, Mr Lee Snr returned to the chief exec's seat in 2008. ®

*WikiLeaks reported a US diplomatic cable conveying widespread rumours that "the late pastor [Choi Tae-min] had complete control over Park's body and soul during her formative years and that his children accumulated enormous wealth as a result". These rumours have not been confirmed.

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