No sleep, a $5 meal: Sam­sung leader quizzed for straight 22 hours over scan­dal

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - WORLD - By REUTERS in Seoul

Jay Y. Lee, who heads South Korea’s mas­sive Sam­sung Group, was given a $5 box meal for lunch and did not sleep in more than 22 hours of ques­tion­ing in a cor­rup­tion scan­dal in­volv­ing im­peached Pres­i­dent Park Geun-hye.

Lee, 48, who has a net worth of $6.2 bil­lion and is the third-gen­er­a­tion leader of the coun­try’s big­gest con­glom­er­ate, or chae­bol, left the spe­cial prose­cu­tors’ of­fice in Seoul on Fri­day morn­ing in what ap­peared to be the same suit and tie he’d worn when he en­tered a day ear­lier.

The tall, be­spec­ta­cled Lee did not look vis­i­bly af­fected by the ses­sion, in which he was ques­tioned by two prose­cu­tors, in­clud­ing one nick­named the “Chae­bol Sniper”.

Lee did not speak to re­porters be­fore get­ting into a wait­ing car.

“Two prose­cu­tors in­ter­ro­gated him and they came in and out of the room to re­port to their chief,” a pros­e­cu­tion of­fi­cial said.

“None of them — prose­cu­tors or Jay Lee — slept be­fore the ques­tion­ing was over,” the of­fi­cial said.

The of­fi­cial, who de­clined to be named due to the sen­si­tiv­ity of the mat­ter, said Lee’s lawyer was present dur­ing the ques­tion­ing.

Prose­cu­tors have been in­ves­ti­gat­ing whether Sam­sung pro­vided 30 bil­lion won ($25.5 mil­lion) to a business and foun­da­tions backed by the pres­i­dent’s friend Choi Soon-sil in ex­change for the na­tional pen­sion fund’s sup­port for a 2015 merger of two Sam­sung af­fil­i­ates.

Named as sus­pect

Lee was named as a sus­pect on Wed­nes­day and sum­moned for ques­tion­ing on Thurs­day. He be­came the de facto head of the Sam­sung Group af­ter his fa­ther Lee Kun-hee was in­ca­pac­i­tated by a heart at­tack in 2014.

Sam­sung has ac­knowl­edged mak­ing pay­ments to two foun­da­tions at the cen­ter of the scan­dal, as well as to a con­sult­ing firm con­trolled by Choi, but has re­peat­edly de­nied ac­cu­sa­tions of lob­by­ing to push through the merger of Sam­sung C&T Corp and Cheil In­dus­tries Inc.

Park was im­peached by Par­lia­ment in De­cem­ber, a de­ci­sion that must be up­held or over­turned by the Con­sti­tu­tional Court. Park, who has been stripped of her pow­ers in the mean­time, has de­nied wrong­do­ing.

Choi, who is in de­ten­tion as she un­der­goes trial, has also de­nied wrong­do­ing.

Af­ter his sleep­less night, Jay Lee went di­rectly to Sam­sung head­quar­ters in Seoul’s up­scale Seo­cho district, a few kilo­me­ters from the spe­cial prose­cu­tors’ of­fice, a Sam­sung spokes­woman said. She did not have fur­ther de­tails.

Asked why the ques­tion­ing lasted so long, pros­e­cu­tion spokesman Lee Kyu-chul said: “There was quite a lot to look into and Lee’s state­ments con­flicted with what our in­ves­ti­ga­tion team ex­pected to hear.”

One of the two prose­cu­tors grilling Lee was Han Dong-hoon, the prose­cu­tors’ of­fice said.

Han has been nick­named the “Chae­bol Sniper” by lo­cal me­dia for his record in pre­vi­ous high-pro­file cor­po­rate in­ves­ti­ga­tions, in­clud­ing a 2003 case in­volv­ing the SK Group and an­other in 2006 fo­cused on Hyundai Mo­tor.

Af­ter a 6,000 won ($5) box meal for lunch, Lee ate ja­jangmyeon, a Chi­nese black-bean-paste noo­dle dish pop­u­lar as a cheap meal, for din­ner, ac­cord­ing to the spe­cial pros­e­cu­tor’s team.

Lee had de­nied some of the sus­pi­cions against him but had ad­mit­ted to oth­ers, the spokesman said. He de­clined to elab­o­rate.

KIM DO-HOON / YONHAP VIA REUTERS

Sam­sung Elec­tron­ics vice-chair­man Jay Y. Lee leaves the of­fice of the in­de­pen­dent coun­sel in Seoul on Fri­day.

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