DAS probe leads to raid of Samsung Electronics

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DAS probe leads to raid of Samsung Electronics

Prosecutors on Wednesday raided the headquarters of Samsung Electronics and the house of a former senior company official as part of their probe into a corruption scandal linked to ex-President Lee Myung-bak.

Investigators from the Seoul Central District Prosecutors’ Office confiscated computer hard discs and other materials from the company’s main office in southern Seoul and from the home of Lee Hak-soo, a former group vice chairman.

They are investigating the suspicion that the conglomerate paid fees for a local auto parts maker, DAS, run by Lee’s relatives, in a U.S. lawsuit in 2009. DAS raised the suit against a businessman to recoup its investment in his U.S.-based investment advisory firm.

DAS is owned by one of Lee’s brothers, but Lee has long been suspected of being its real owner. The company is under investigation over the suspicion that it has created a 12 billion won ($10.9 million) slush fund. The prosecution is also looking into whether Lee used his influence to help DAS recover money from the U.S. firm. Lee was president from 2008 to 2013.

Lee has denied all allegations regarding his link to the firm, calling the ongoing probe “political retribution.”

Speculation also grew that Samsung’s alleged payment of DAS’s lawsuit was linked to former President Lee’s special pardon of Chairman Lee Kun-hee in December 2009. Lee Kun-hee was convicted of creating slush funds and sentenced to serve a three-year suspended prison term at the time. Former President Lee said he decided to grant a special pardon to the tycoon so that the businessman could restore his membership at the International Olympic Committee and help a campaign of the country to host the PyeongChang Winter Olympics.

The raids also took place only three days after Samsung Vice Chairman Lee Jae-yong was released from prison, after winning an appeals trial on his bribery conviction. The heir-apparent had been accused of having paid bribes to former President Park Geun-hye during her presidency.

by SER MYO-JA, YONHAP [ser.myoja@joongang.co.kr]
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