Lee faces 2nd warrant hearing

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Lee faces 2nd warrant hearing

A warrant hearing for Samsung heir Lee Jae-yong today is expected to be an important test for the special prosecutors’ attempt to go after President Park Geun-hye as a suspect in the massive bribery scandal.

The Seoul Central District Court in Seocho District, southern Seoul, is scheduled to hold the hearing at 10:30 a.m. and Judge Han Jeong-seok will oversee the case, a second attempt by independent counsel Park Young-soo to detain the tycoon for its probe.

The request was made on Tuesday, after questioning the de facto head of Samsung for 15 hours.

After the court struck down Park’s team’s initial request for a pretrial detention warrant against Lee on Jan. 19, investigators gathered new evidence over the past three weeks.

In its initial application in January, the team said Lee should be detained on charges of offering bribes to President Park, embezzling the company money and perjury before the National Assembly during a hearing.

When the team reapplied for the warrant on Tuesday, it added two new charges while maintaining the initial three charges.

“Through the additional three weeks of investigation, we obtained several more pieces of evidence that we are confident about,” said assistant independent counsel Lee Kyu-chul said Wednesday. “We decided to reapply for the warrant after a serious deliberation. Even if the court uses a [strict] standard, we believe there is more than enough ground to seek the warrant.”

If the warrant will be issued, the independent counsel probe, scheduled to end in two weeks, will mark an important step toward going after President Park.

If the court rejects the warrant request once again, the investigation will suffer a serious blow.

The team said Lee illegally moved assets to a foreign country and concealed criminal proceeds in Samsung’s dealings with Choi.

The investigators said Samsung Electronics’ payment of 8 billion won ($7 million) to Choi’s paper company in Germany is an illegal transfer of assets to a foreign country.

They also said creating a contract with the company to pay for an expensive horse for Choi’s daughter, Chung Yoo-ra, an equestrian athlete, is a violation of the law governing criminal proceeds concealment.

The illegal transfer of assets to a foreign country can be punished with a prison term between 10 years to life when the amount is larger than 5 billion won.

Assistant counsel Lee said the team did not increase the suspected amount of the bribe that Samsung paid to Park through Choi.

In both applications, the total amount was cited as 43.3 billion won, but the investigators added more grounds in the second application to call the money a bribe.

Samsung Group maintains the position that its dealing with Choi was not an act of bribery.

An official of Samsung Electronics also said the additional charges will not likely affect the court’s decision.

“The new charges require the precondition of bribery,” he told the JoongAng Ilbo. “Because we are sure that there was no act of giving bribes, we see no problem.”

BY SER MYO-JA [ser.myoja@joongang.co.kr]
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