Time for wise judgmentThe independent counsel team led by Park Young-soo sought a warrant to detain Lee Jae-yong, vice chairman of Samsung Electronics and leader of the country’s top conglomerate, on charges of bribery, embezzlement and perjury. It said upholding justice was as important as the economy. The counsel spent three days deliberating on filing an arrest warrant due to an expected backlash from the investigation whose attention veered away from President Park Geun-hye and her confidante Choi Soon-sil to Samsung and other chaebol heads.
The independent counsel was building a bribery case on Lee to get to President Park. It is suspected of pushing ahead with the physical detention of Chairman Lee to slap bribery charges on Park. The counsel also resorted to detention because an indictment without detention is often considered as the sign of a pardon in Korea.
The independent counsel has raised the stakes in the investigation of Park and Choi. It has added bribery on top of power abuse and exercise of coercion by accusing Samsung of attempting bribery in its donations to Mi-R and K-Sports, the foundations created by Choi.
This means that all 53 companies that made donations would come under allegation.
The counsel team accuses Lee of making an illicit request to President Park of helping out in the merger of Samsung C&T and Cheil Industries and handed a financial token of appreciation after the merger went through in July 2015. Lee and Samsung maintain that the merger came first, and that the donation was made later upon request from the presidential office without attaching conditions.
It’s now up to the court. It must decide whether to grant the arrest warrant or not. That all depends on how much evidence the independent counsel has built on its bribery charge on Lee. The counsel has said it secured decisive evidence pointing to Lee being aware of Samsung’s financial assistance to Choi and her daughter. Legal experts are doubtful if the warrant would go through when the result (payment) comes after the cause (merger). The judge would also have to decide whether there is the danger of Lee destroying evidence and fleeing. The court would have to come to a wise judgment after balanced and careful consideration of the circumstances and testimonies of both sides.
JoongAng Ilbo, Jan. 17, Page 30