Samsung Group confirmed plans to close down its corporate strategy office over a corruption scandal as soon as the South Korean authorities finish their investigation into the matter. Preparations for this move have already started, the Seoul-based company revealed in a statement on Monday. Vice Chairman of Samsung Group Jay Y. Lee already vowed to shut down the office during his parliamentary hearing in December. The head of the office Choi Gee-sung is currently facing charges over bribery accusations connected to the corruption scandal and Lee himself was officially accused of playing a key role in the incident last month.
Samsung Group's corporate strategy office is said to be the key body used by the Lee family to control the South Korean conglomerate. The office was allegedly closely connected to a controversial merger between Samsung C&T and Cheil Industries in 2015. While Samsung Group wanted to merge its two affiliates, it was unable to do so without acquiring a permission from National Pension Service (NPS), the largest Korean pension fund and a major shareholder of Cheil industries. Lee is accused of bribing a close associate of President Park Choi Soon-sil to acquire that blessing. Samsung Group's Vice Chairman allegedly paid approximately $37 million in bribes to Choi who holds no official position with the Korean government but used her connection to President Park to illegally broker the controversial merger, the High Prosecutor's Office believes. Choi is currently in custody, while the prosecutors are expected to soon request a second arrest warrant for Lee after the initial one was thrown out in January.
Samsung Group has yet to provide a specific timeframe for closing down its corporate strategy office, but the move will likely be made during the second quarter of the year. Seoul's investigation into the company is scheduled to finish on February 28, but the special prosecutor's office said on Monday that it will ask for a 30-day extension to conclude its probe. It remains to be seen what kind of evidence against Samsung the authorities will manage to find in the meantime, but as things stand right now, the tech giant is unlikely to get through this scandal unscathed.