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Samsung Group chief to be charged with bribery, embezzlement amid scandal

BUSINESS
By Reuters | February 28th 2017
Samsung Group chief, Jay Y. Lee arrives at the office of the independent counsel team in Seoul, South Korea (REUTERS)

South Korea's special prosecutor's office said on Tuesday it will charge Samsung Group chief Jay Y. Lee and four other executives with bribery and embezzlement amid a political scandal that has rocked the country.

Lee was arrested on Feb. 17 over his alleged role in the corruption scandal involving impeached President Park Geun-hye, dealing a fresh blow to the technology giant and standard-bearer for Asia's fourth-largest economy.

A Constitutional Court ruling on whether to uphold the impeachment, which would result in South Korea's first democratically elected leader being thrown out of office, is expected next month.

"The five executives will face charges including bribery, embezzlement and hiding assets overseas," said Lee Kyu-chul, a spokesman for the special prosecutor, on the last day of its investigation.

Lee will also be charged with committing perjury before parliament, he added.

The other executives to be charged are Samsung Group vice chairman Choi Gee-sung, president Chang Choong-ki and Samsung Electronics Co Ltd president Park Sang-jin and executive vice president Hwang Sung-soo, the spokesman said.

A Samsung Group spokeswoman declined to comment on the charges.

Lee, the spokesman, said the case against President Park would be handed over to regular prosecutors with Park remaining a suspect, while signalling other conglomerates may also become involved in the investigation.

Park was impeached by parliament in December after accusations that she colluded with long-time friend Choi Soon-sil to pressure big businesses, including Samsung, to donate to two foundations set up to back the president's policy initiatives.

The special prosecutor's office will make an official announcement regarding the conclusion of its investigation on March 6.

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