The trial of Samsung's chief Jay Y. Lee has been given to another judge on Friday after judge Lee Young-hoon was accused of being connected to the actors in the scandal that led to Lee's arrest. The judge asked to be reassigned himself, a spokesman for Seoul Central District Court told the media, refusing to reveal what prompted the judge to make such a request. On Thursday, a South Korean lawmaker alleged that Lee Young-hoon's father-in-law was a financial backer of Choi Soon-sil, one of the main actors in the aforementioned scandal. Choi was a close associate of former President Park Geun-hye who allegedly helped Lee facilitate a controversial merger of Cheil Industries and Samsung C&T in 2015 after Samsung's chief paid more than $37 million in bribes to several organizations to which she was connected.
Park was formally impeached by the Constitutional Court last Friday and has now been called in for questioning as a suspect in the investigation that led to Lee's arrest. The organizations connected to Choi which allegedly received bribes from Samsung Group's Vice Chairman have also previously backed Park's policy initiatives. Lee Young-hoon's father-in-law recently denied allegations that he's been in contact with Choi and her family after Park's father was assassinated in 1979. Lee Young-hoon has only presided over a preparatory hearing in the trial on March 9 and won't be involved in the case anymore. Both Samsung and Lee's legal representatives have yet to comment on this turn of events.
The case against Lee that some have labeled "the trial of the century" is currently set to be concluded in late May, though the proceedings could be dragged out until September if the defendant ends up appealing the initial verdict. Prosecutors claim that Lee embezzled corporate funds to bribe Choi in an effort to secure his position as the de facto heir of Samsung Group. The merger outlined above gave more power to the part of the conglomerate controlled by the founding Lee family that currently only holds a minority share in Samsung. Lee allegedly paid bribes to Choi to obtain approval of the merger from the largest state pension fund in South Korea which owned a portion of Cheil Industries and ended up voting for the consolidation despite the fact that it lost a significant sum of money on the deal.