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Samsung heir seeks outside review of possible indictment

(Yonhap)
(Yonhap)

Samsung Group heir Lee Jae-yong asked the prosecution to convene a committee of outside experts to review whether he should be indicted over his controversial succession process involving the merger of two affiliated companies.

Lee’s lawyers filed for the panel review Tuesday, as prosecutors have investigated for 18 months the 2015 merger between Samsung C&T and Cheil Industries, and suspected window dressing by Samsung BiolLogics in 2015.

The Seoul Central District Prosecutors’ Office plans to call a meeting of the Citizens Committee on Prosecution, where selected citizens review such requests, to discuss referring Lee’s case to the outside experts’ panel.

The prosecution introduced the external review system in 2018 as part of reform measures to prevent abuse of power. The panel reviews whether certain investigations should continue, and the legitimacy of indictments or requests for court warrants.

Some observers in the business world say the prosecution appears likely to indict Lee, vice chairman of Samsung Electronics, despite having found no definitive evidence after repeated raids and summons for interrogation.

Prosecutors suspect Samsung’s top management may have deliberately lowered the value of Samsung C&T prior to its merger with Cheil Industries, of which Lee was the largest shareholder, to help facilitate the managerial succession to Lee from his bedridden father Lee Kun-hee.

Prosecutors questioned Lee Jae-yong twice last week after interrogating about 100 former and incumbent top executives of the Samsung affiliates earlier, and plan to wrap up the investigation within this month.

Lee is said to have denied all allegations.

Samsung claims neither the merger nor the accounting changes at its biologics company had anything to do with Lee’s succession of managerial rights over the conglomerate.

Lee is also undergoing a retrial over bribery charges linked to the scandal that led to the ousting of former President Park Geun-hye.

Lee was initially sentenced to five years in prison in 2017, but was freed a year later after the Seoul High Court reduced his sentence to 2 1/2 years, suspended for four years, dismissing most of the bribery charges against him.

The Supreme Court, however, sent his case back to the lower court last year for a retrial.

Prosecutors are also investigating allegations that Samsung Electronics attempted to disband the labor union of its after-sales service unit.

By Kim So-hyun (sophie@heraldcorp.com)
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