Samsung Heir Says Company Didn’t Pay Kickbacks
Lee Jae-Young, the heir apparent of Samsung Electronics, denied claims that his company had paid kickbacks for gaining political favors. The nation’s top businessmen are being grilled by lawmakers in a probe of influence peddling and even the president of South Korea is facing an impeachment vote. On Tuesday, there was a lengthy session in front of the parliamentary committee on Tuesday during which Mr. Lee informed lawmakers that initially he hadn’t been made aware of the donations made to two foundations by Samsung affiliates, which were allegedly under the control of President Park Geun-hye’s confidante. The heir is trying to distance his company from a political crisis that has transfixed the country.
An impeachment vote will be faced by Ms. Park on Friday due to the spreading scandal, which has inflicted considerable political damage. Mr. Lee said that he hadn’t been aware of the donations and had come to know about them later. The hearing was an extraordinary public grilling, which lasted for hours and involved the country’s most powerful business tycoons. It began after breakfast and stretched on long into the night. The brunt of the questioning was born by Mr. Lee along with a lineup including SK Group’s Chey Tae-won, Lotte Group chairman Shin Dong-bin and Hyundai Motor Group chairman Chung Mong-koo.
Most of them denied the allegations outright that the donations had been made in exchange for political favors. Mr. Lee was constantly lectured and interrupted during the session, which is the first after 1988 that the most powerful business magnates of the country have been summoned to the National Assembly for questioning. On Tuesday, Mr. Lee pledged to shut an office known as the ‘control tower’ within Samsung, which is responsible for leading the major deals and deals with the movement of the high-level personnel within the conglomerate.
Formally known as the Future Strategy Office, this office has gotten into the spotlight for being involved in the channeling of funds to the two aforementioned foundations. An economics professor at Seoul’s Hansung University, Kim Sang-jo, had testified earlier that the particular entity lacked accountability. Furthermore, Mr. Lee also said that he would remove Samsung from the most powerful lobby group in South Korea for business interests. For a long time, the Federation of Korean Industries has served as a conduit for making corporate donations to the government. According to prosecutors, Ms. Park had worked as an accomplice of her friend, Choi Soon-sil.
She had helped her friend in shaking down companies like LG, Hyundai and Samsung for donations that could be used for funding her daughter’s education as well as her lifestyle. The accusations have been denied by both Ms. Choi and Ms. Park. The executives were questioned by lawmakers, most of whom belonged to the three main opposition parties. They were asked if they expected any favorable treatments in return for the donations. As far as Samsung is concerned, they brought up the vote by the National Pension Fund for approving a contentious merger of the company’s two affiliates in the previous year.