Jay Y. Lee, the Vice Chairman of Samsung Electronics, will likely face another arrest warrant shortly, the South Korean media reported on Sunday. Investigators are legally obliged to wrap up their investigation into a corruption scandal connected to Lee by the end of February, and any related arrest warrants must be requested before their probe is concluded. The investigation can theoretically be prolonged by an additional month but there's currently no information on whether that will happen in this case. The special prosecutor's office already had one arrest warrant for Lee thrown out in mid-January, so any additional requests must be backed by new evidence.
The final stage of the investigation into political corruption in South Korea entails interrogating President Park who is currently awaiting impeachment. Authorities are expected to talk to President Park in early February, after which they'll decide whether to seek another arrest warrant for Lee or try prolonging their probe until the end of March. One investigator told Yonhap News Agency that the team is "perfectly prepared" to request another arrest warrant for Lee seeing how their time to do so is running out. The original request was rejected due to the fact that investigators only presented circumstantial evidence that a Korean court deemed worthy of a trial, but not reason enough to put Lee in jail until the trial is completed. Seeing how Lee was already prohibited from leaving the country, the court decided he'll be able to face charges against him as a free man.
While Lee initially admitted to paying some money to a close associate of President Park, he claimed he was coerced to do so by Park and expected nothing in return. On the other hand, the South Korean High Prosecutor's Office is currently trying to prove that approximately $37 million Lee paid to several organizations connected to President Park's associate directly influenced the controversial 2015 merger of Cheil Industries and Samsung C&T. More information is expected to follow soon as Park will be interrogated over these allegations in the coming days. Korean authorities already announced more similar investigations into other corporations in the country after the case against Samsung moves to trial.