Samsung's Lee requests outside review of investigationProsecutors said Wednesday that Samsung's de facto leader Lee Jae-yong has requested that prosecutors convene a panel of outside experts to decide the validity of an ongoing criminal investigation into a controversial merger that cemented his control of Korea's largest conglomerate.
The Seoul Central District Prosecutors’ Office said that Lee, the vice chairman of Samsung Electronics, and other company executives filed the application requesting the panel on Tuesday. The application asked the panel look into the validity of possible indictments based on the current investigation.
Lee was questioned by prosecutors twice last week, as they investigate allegations that a series of legal violations, including breach of trust, were committed in order to help Lee take control of the conglomerate from his father, Lee Kun-hee, who has been hospitalized since 2014 after a heart attack.
The allegations stem from the 2015 merger of Samsung C&T and Cheil Industries, along with a case of suspected accounting fraud at Samsung BioLogics. Prosecutors are looking into who planned, ordered and implemented suspected violations of the Financial Investment Services and Capital Markets Act.
The Seoul Central District Prosecutors’ Office said it will soon convene the Citizens’ Committee to determine whether to hand Lee’s case over to the panel of outside experts, formally known as the Supreme Prosecutors’ Office’s Investigation Review Panel.
If the committee orders a review, the prosecutors must wait until the investigation panel's conclusion before making any decision on whether to prosecute Lee.
The Investigation Review Panel was introduced in the prosecution in 2018 to provide oversight of high-profile investigations and to evaluate the legitimacy of investigation outcomes. It has the power to decide whether an investigation should continue and whether suspects should be indicted.
It also examines whether the prosecution respected due process when it applied for arrest warrants, and whether prosecutors made a legitimate decision to indict a suspect or drop a case.
Regulations require the panel to be made up of more than 150 but less than 250 experts in various areas. Fifteen of its members would be randomly chosen to conduct the review.
Prosecution sources said they were surprised that Lee decided to use the system, with the investigation nearing its end after 18 months.
BY KIM MIN-SANG, SER MYO-JA [firstname.lastname@example.org]
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