Vice Chairman of Samsung Electronics Jay Y. Lee was questioned for almost a day after arriving at the South Korean Supreme Prosecutors' Office on Thursday. Lee left the premises on Friday morning after spending over 22 hours answering questions on a corruption scandal involving Samsung, President Park, and a number of Korean power brokers. While leaving the location, Samsung's executive refused to answer questions from local reporters gathered outside the special prosecutor's office who were inquiring about the details of the interrogation. A representative of the Supreme Prosecutors' Office said Lee admitted to some allegations against him and denied others, but provided no further details on the contents of his questioning. Samsung declined to comment on this latest turn of events.
Lee was only named a suspect in the investigation on Wednesday, after being treated as a witness for several months. His 22-hour interrogation was reportedly related to a parliamentary hearing he attended in December, as Reuters reports investigators wanted to find out whether Lee provided a false testimony on that occasion. Samsung Electronics' Vice Chairman originally rejected most allegations laid out against the company and promised to avoid future scandals.
Back in November, authorities started probing the 2015 merger of Samsung C&T and Cheil Industries. Investigators are still looking into the possibility that Samsung bribed Choi Soon-sil, a close associate of President Park to facilitate the merger. Cheil Industries was largely owned by the National Pension Service (NPS), the largest pension fund in the country. By financing one of Choi's ventures, Samsung is alleged to have ensured the NPS' blessing of the merger. The Supreme Prosecutors' Office previously said it will soon decide whether to request an arrest warrant for Lee and several other top executives at the company. For the time being, the Vice Chairman of Samsung Electronics is forbidden to leave the country. Regarding other actors in this scandal, President Park is currently awaiting impeachment that the Korean parliament voted for last month, but the Constitutional Court could still overrule that decision. Earlier today, an unnamed official at Samsung revealed that the company fears this investigation could jeopardize its planned acquisition of Harman, a US manufacturer of connected car systems.