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17 February 2017, 12:29 | Jamie Ballard
South Korea prosecutors expand charges against Samsung boss
The court also rejected the prosecutor's request for a warrant for the arrest of Samsung President Park Sang-jin. The pension fund's current chief was arrested a year ago on suspicion of pressuring the fund to back the merger, which helped Lee increase his influence in Samsung Electronics without spending any of his money.
At issue is whether millions in donations Samsung made to two foundations controlled by President Park's friend and confidant, Choi Soon-sil, were bribes to get the South Korean pension fund to back a merger between two of Samsung Group's holding companies.
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Samsung is South Korea's largest business group and its revenue is equivalent to about a fifth of the country's GDP. It is also accused of separately giving millions of euros to Choi to bankroll her daughter's equestrian training in Germany.
Park has been stripped of her powers while the Constitutional Court decides whether to uphold her impeachment.
During last month's investigation Samsungdenied providing Choi and her associates with financial aid in return for favours, while Lee himself denied all charges, none of which have been proven in court.
They are also investigating Lee on allegations of embezzlement of Samsung funds, hiding assets overseas and lying under oath during a parliamentary hearing.
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Samsung watchers have said Lee's arrest would not affect the day-to-day running of group companies including Samsung Electronics Co Ltd, which are run by professional managers, but a prolonged absence could impact longer-term and strategic decision making.
An earlier request for an arrest warrant had been denied, but the charges against Lee have expanded since then.
Lee's arrest will likely shock the business community.
Samsung said in a statement Wednesday it had "not paid bribes nor made improper requests to the president seeking favours". Its offices have been raided several times on suspicion that the presidential office influenced the decision by South Korea's state-run pension fund to back Samsung's merger plan a year ago.
Lee has effectively taken the helm of Samsung since his father suffered a heart attack in 2014.
The merger of Samsung C&T and Cheil Industries in 2015 was opposed by minority shareholders, who said it would benefit the Samsung founding family while hurting other shareholders. After his latest conviction in 2008, he was pardoned a year later by the president, who said he would help South Korea's bid to host the 2018 Winter Olympics.
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