Samsung Group's arrested Vice Chairman Jay Y. Lee is now facing expanded charges, South Korean Supreme Prosecutors' Office (SPO) confirmed on Friday. This announcement marks the second time the prosecutors decided to widen charges against Samsung's heir that was arrested amidst a corruption scandal that shook the Far Eastern country. Lee was originally accused of bribery, embezzlement, and hiding of assets overseas, and subsequently faced charges of perjury and hiding the proceeds of a criminal act. Now, newly uncovered evidence apparently prompted the SPO to widen its list of charges against Samsung's top executives to allegations related to the leadership succession process at Samsung, the largest business conglomerate in South Korea.
The influence-peddling scandal in the country originally started after the special prosecutor's office revealed how it suspects Lee paid more than $37 million in bribes to several organizations connected to Choi Soon-sil, a close associate of the Korean President Park Geun-hye. Samsung Group's Vice Chairman allegedly paid those bribes in an effort to facilitate a 2015 merger between Samsung C&T and Cheil Industries. The controversial merger of the two Samsung affiliates reportedly smoothened Lee's succession of the Seoul-based tech giant, an SPO spokesman said during a briefing on Friday, as reported by Reuters. The new charges against Lee are yet to be thoroughly investigated and Samsung Group's top executive is now scheduled to be interrogated on the matter on Saturday.
In the meantime, President Park is currently stripped of her powers due to this scandal and is waiting to see whether the Supreme Court will uphold the South Korean parliament's decision to impeach her. Like Lee, Park's confidante Choi was previously arrested and is awaiting trial, as is Samsung Electronics President Park Sang-jin. Choi's daughter Chung Yoo-ra who's also implicated in the scandal is currently under arrest in Denmark and is expected to be extradited to South Korea in the coming weeks. The investigation into the influence-peddling scandal in the Far Eastern country is currently set to be concluded on February 28, but the SPO previously said it will ask for a 30-day extension due to the extremely convoluted nature of the matter.