Samsung shelled out W30B to Choi projects

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Samsung shelled out W30B to Choi projects

Samsung spent an additional 4.3 billion won ($3.7 million) to sponsor the athletic career of Chung Yoo-ra, the 20-year-old daughter of presidential friend Choi Soon-sil, prosecutors said over the weekend.

That brings the total amount of Samsung’s sponsorship of the dressage athlete to around 7.8 billion won, including the previously reported 3.5 billion won that the top conglomerate transferred to Widek Sports, a shell company created by Choi in Germany.

Chung allegedly used the money to purchase horses and receive lessons.

Samsung, an official sponsor of the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games, acknowledged paying the money to Chung but said that the horses she bought were Samsung’s property, not hers, and that the company already started confiscating some of the things bought with its money.

Prosecutors are digging into allegations that the Blue House might have ordered the National Pension Service to allow a merger between Samsung C&T Corporation and Cheil Industries last year in return for Samsung’s hefty donations to Choi-related affairs.

Samsung donated at least 20.4 billion won to the Mi-R and K-Sports foundations, which Choi allegedly controlled, and 1.6 billion won to a youth winter sports center allegedly controlled by Choi’s niece. Together with the sponsorships of Chung, Samsung funneled 29.8 billion won to Choi-related affairs.

The National Pension Service was the largest shareholder in Samsung C&T at the time of the merger, owning an 11.6 percent stake. Its decision to approve the merger baffled many analysts, who predicted the value of its stake in the merged entity would fall considerably.

For Samsung, the deal was used to consolidate the control of Lee Jae-yong, vice chairman of Samsung Electronics, over the family business.

On Sunday morning, Kim Jae-youl, 48, president of Samsung Sports Business at Cheil Worldwide, was summoned for the second time to answer questions about why Samsung sponsored the youth winter sports center with 1.6 billion won, and whether Samsung sought anything in return from the Blue House.

Kim is the son-in-law of Samsung Chairman Lee Kun-hee, and also serves as executive vice president of the PyeongChang Organizing Committee for the 2018 Olympic & Paralympic Winter Games, set to be held in Pyeongchang County, Gangwon.

Choi’s niece Jang Si-ho, the de-facto head of the sports center, is currently detained on charges of embezzlement and influence peddling. The center was also able to receive 670 million won from the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism last year.

Kim Chong, former vice minister of culture, is detained on suspicions he strong-armed Samsung into making the 1.6 billion won contribution.

On Saturday afternoon, Choi’s older sister Choi Soon-deuk, 64, was summoned to the prosecutors’ office and questioned for five hours.

Choi Soon-deuk, the mother of Jang Si-ho, reportedly took care of President Park in May 2006 after she was slashed in the face during a political rally in Daejeon. Her former driver claimed that Choi Soon-deuk was so close to Park that in 2009 - before Park became president - he drove to Park’s house to deliver Choi Soon-deuk’s kimchi.

Along with her younger sister, Choi Soon-deuk also faces allegations that she allowed Park to receive medical treatment at an anti-aging clinic in Gangnam District, southern Seoul, under her own name, and take out vitamin injections, both of which go against domestic medical laws.

Park received treatment at the clinic, Chaum, at least 29 times from 2011 to 2014.

On the request of the Ministry of Health and Welfare, prosecutors launched an investigation last Tuesday into a former doctor at the clinic who treated Park and the two Choi sisters.

BY LEE SUNG-EUN [lee.sungeun@joongang.co.kr]

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