Supreme Prosecutors' Office (SPO) said on Monday that the South Korean President Park Geun-hye conspired with her associate Choi Soon-sil in an effort to receive bribes from Samsung Group. The SPO accused President Park and her confidante of colluding to profit from the ambitions of Samsung Group's Vice Chairman and heir Jay Y. Lee who was allegedly looking to solidify his control of the conglomerate by merging two of the company's affiliates in 2015. Following the controversial consolidation of Samsung C&T and Cheil Industries that Lee is accused of facilitating with bribes, the part of Samsung Group controlled by the founding Lee family received more power within the conglomerate, the SPO said.
The special prosecutor's office revealed some findings of its investigation into President Park's influence-peddling scandal on Monday, saying that the largest state-owned pension fund in the country — National Pension Service — voted in favor of the controversial merger despite expecting a $119.87 million loss following the transaction which saw it yield control over a significant stake in Cheil Industries. The SPO is now claiming that Lee and another top executive at Samsung conspired to bribe President Park and Choi to pressure Cheil Industries into voting for the merger and have embezzled corporate funds in the process. President Park has recently been stripped of her powers and is now waiting for the Constitutional Court to decide whether to uphold the parliament's decision to impeach her. If she's forced out of the office, the President of the Far Eastern country may also be investigated for blacklisting writers and artists, special prosecutor Park Young-soo said during a news conference on Monday.
Lee and Choi are both currently in jail and are awaiting trial. Lee's trial is scheduled to begin on Thursday and will last no longer than three months, according to the currently existing legislature. While Samsung Group's financial performance isn't expected to suffer due to this turn of events in the short term, the largest business conglomerate in South Korea may face issues with strategic mergers and acquisitions if its de facto head ends up facing a long prison sentence. An update on the situation will follow later this week.