Samsung's heir apparent Lee Jae-yong was quizzed by investigators for 22 hours in the massive corruption scandal the led to the impeachment of South Korean President Park Geun-hye. Lee changed his earlier statement and claimed that the beleaguered president had forced his company to pay billions of won to various organisations linked to her confidante Choi Soon-sil.
Lee, the only son of ailing Samsung chairman Lee Kun-hee had in December told a parliamentary hearing that in a private meeting in 2015 the president had only talked about matters related to the Samsung Group and its investment plans. However, as he changed his statement, investigators may consider seeking an arrest warrant against Lee, reports said.
"Based on precedent, even if the bribe is given under pressure, the donor will be punished," an investigating official told the Korean Herald.
Samsung has already acknowledged making payments to two foundations at the center of the scandal which were linked to Choi, but constantly denied accusations of lobbying to push through the controversial 2015 merger of affiliates Samsung C&T Corp and Cheil Industries Inc. Further, prosecutors have claimed that Samsung knowingly supported Choi in return for the National Pension Service's approval of the controversial merger as it was critical in ensuring a smooth transfer of power to heir apparent Lee.
Samsung executive reshuffle delayed
In lieu of the scandal the executive reshuffle of the conglomerate which was to be completed in December may be further delayed from the expected February-March period. A day before his testimony reports claimed that the delay of the executive reshuffling has stalled the business decision of whether to launch a foldable device this year or not.
There have also been talks of Lee being given charge of the company especially after the Galaxy Note 7 fiasco. His appointment to the board was criticised in October by opponents, who said the scion is there due to his family rather than merit. Samsung has largely remained a family controlled business despite staunch criticisms, but if Lee is to get further embroiled in the controversy, the company may have to chalk out a new route very soon.