The court has dismissed the request by the prosecutors to issue an arrest warrant to Samsung Electronics vice chairman Lee Jae-yong. This will be a big setback for the special prosecution team led by specially appointed head prosecutor Park Young-soo that has investigated bribery and other charges in relation to the so-called Choi Soon-sil scandal.
Seoul Central District Court judge Cho Eui-youn who rejected the arrest warrant said on January 19, “It is hard to accept the need to arrest the suspect right now as there is little possibility of the suspect running away and there is room for disagreement about major charges.”
Lee, the vice chairman and heir apparent of the 270-trillion-won company, was suspected of giving bribes worth 43 billion won to the Choi Soon-sil family in return for getting the Samsung C&T-Cheil Industries merger deal approved by the government. In addition, he was charged with embezzlement as he took the company’s money of 9.7 billion won to pay for the bribe and with perjury due to his alleged false statements in the public hearings held in the National Assembly.
Song Woo-cheol, attorney at law with Bae, Kim & Lee, who was defense lawyer to the suspect, said, “The biggest moot point was whether the bribe was in expectation of future favor. Our defense team has submitted an enough amount of evidence to refute it and I am certain that the judges in the court will make competent determinations on the issue.”
After the news of Lee’s arrest warrant denied by the court, the Korea Employers Federation said in a statement, “We welcome the court’s prudent decision on the matter. We hope that the suspicions and misunderstandings in relations to Samsung’s behavior could be resolved quickly through legal proceedings.”
Legal experts commented that the special prosecutors rushed to request for the arrest warrant too fast. An attorney at a big law firm said, “The biggest problem for the special prosecution was it requested for the warrant without even investigating Choi Soon-sil and President Park Geun-hye to whom the suspect said gave the money. The issue was controversial from the beginning as Lee kept saying he was forced to pay the money. In addition, the prosecutors made seize-and-search investigations three times and Lee had no possibility of running away or destroying evidence as he was banned from overseas trip. Still, the special prosecutors ignored all these and insisted on issuing the warrant.”
By Hanshin Park