South Korean Prosecutors Seek Arrest Warrant For Samsung Heir

Lee is vice-chairman of Samsung Electronics -- the world's largest smartphone maker -- and was jailed for five years in 2017 for bribery, embezzlement and other offences in connection with a scandal.

South Korean Prosecutors Seek Arrest Warrant For Samsung Heir

Samsung vice-chairman and heir Lee Jae-yong is currently undergoing a retrial (Reuters)

Seoul:

South Korean prosecutors have asked for an arrest warrant for Samsung vice-chairman and heir Lee Jae-yong as part of an investigation into a controversial 2015 merger of two Samsung units, their office said Thursday.

Lee is vice-chairman of Samsung Electronics -- the world's largest smartphone maker -- and was jailed for five years in 2017 for bribery, embezzlement and other offences in connection with a scandal that brought down South Korean president Park Geun-hye.

The 51-year-old was released a year later on appeal but is currently undergoing a retrial.

Seoul Central District Prosecutors' Office said they were seeking an arrest warrant for Lee on suspicion he had been involved in price manipulation and illegal trading during the 2015 merger of Cheil Industries and Samsung C&T.

The move was seen as a crucial step in ensuring a smooth third-generational power transfer to Lee, a scion of Samsung's founding family.

It was criticised by many who said it wilfully undervalued Samsung C&T's stocks, but at the time Seoul's National Pension Service (NPS) -- a major Samsung shareholder -- voted in favour of the deal, which eventually went through.

The prosecution also requested a warrant against two former Samsung executives over their role in the merger, it said in its statement.

The request comes weeks after Lee apologised for a plan that would have seen him ascend to the leadership of the group, and vow to end the line of family succession.

Samsung is by far the biggest of the family-controlled conglomerates, or chaebols, that dominate business in the world's 12th-largest economy.

Its overall turnover is equivalent to a fifth of the national gross domestic product, making it crucial to South Korea's economic health.

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