Samsung Group Chairman Lee Kun-hee is suspected in a new tax evasion case being investigated in South Korea, with local authorities officially naming him as a suspect in the case but saying he's unable to be questioned due to his physical condition. Mr. Lee hasn't been seen publicly since May of 2014 when he suffered a heart attack that's said to have left him in a comatose state. He was reportedly hospitalized in the Samsung Medical Centre in Seoul where he remains to this day. His condition hasn't significantly improved, according to recent reports, though it's presently unclear whether he regained some degree of consciousness. The now 76-year-old entrepreneur was involved in a scandal involving a major slush fund held by Samsung that prosecutors alleged was used for bribing government officials, having had his home raided in 2008 before being sentenced to three years of suspended jail time, in addition to paying a fine amounting to approximately $98 million at the time. He was soon pardoned by former Korean President Lee Myung-bak so that he could keep his position at the International Olympic Committee.
Mr. Lee's son Jay Y. Lee was released following a year of detention earlier this week after an appeals court in Seoul reduced his five-year prison sentence for bribery in half and suspended it for four years. The son of the Chairman is widely regarded to be the de facto heir to the conglomerate and should formally return to his responsibilities at the company in the coming weeks. His father is now being suspected of conspiring with at least one other Samsung executive to manage funds across 260 bank accounts held in the names of the company's officials with the goal of hiding the assets from taxation.
The Korean National Police Agency is set to forward the case to local prosecutors in the near future. The improper payments for the 2011 renovation of Lee's family residence should have originally been subjected to approximately $120 million in tax but the $7.5 million sum is the only part of the transactions that doesn't fall within the statute of limitations, the authorities said. Despite its recent leadership crisis, Samsung is still posting record-breaking results, largely due to the soaring demand for its memory chips.