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Samsung ‘boss’ Lee arrested

South Korean court orders arrest of de facto head of conglomerate over ‘new evidence’ in graft probe

The de facto head of South Korean conglomerate Samsung Group has been placed under arrest over alleged corruption and bribery charges, according to reports.

Lee Jae-yong, currently vice president of Samsung Electronics but widely regarded as being in control of the Samsung empire, was ordered by a court on Friday to be arrested having been interviewed for a second time by authorities earlier this week over allegations of unlawful donations.

Samsung ‘boss’ faces payments probe

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Lee has faced claims that Samsung made donations to non-profit foundations operated by a close aide of country President Park Geun-hye, who has subsequently been impeached over the scandal.

Payments are alleged to have been made to the foundations operated by Choi Soon-sil in return for Park’s support for a merger deal involving construction firm Samsung C&T and an affiliate, Cheil Industries.

Although Lee was questioned at length by authorities in January he was not arrested. He was questioned again earlier this week, but an arrest order was not issued until Friday. The BBC reported that the court said it "acknowledged that it is necessary to arrest [him] in light of a newly added criminal charge and new evidence”. It is not known what the new evidence is.

Lee and Samsung have denied any wrongdoing.

Lee has already admitted before a parliamentary meeting to giving the equivalent of more than $17 million to the two foundations, but has denied that this was to seek favour for the proposed merger of Samsung C&T and Cheil Industries.

Lee is widely regarded as having assumed control of Samsung Group following his father Lee Kun-hee;s heart attack in 2014. The younger Lee is the grandson of Samsung founder Lee Byung-chul.