S.Korean court rejects arrest warrant for Samsung head

A South Korean court on Tuesday rejected the approval of an arrest warrant against the de-facto head of Samsung Group in connection with the controversial merger of two affiliates in 2015 with the alleged goal of cementing his leadership.

The decision was made by Seoul Central District Court, where Lee Jae-yong had appeared Monday to complete proceedings that lasted for nine hours, reports Efe news.

In the early hours of Tuesday the court decided that there was not sufficient probable cause to order the arrest of the Samsung heir.

“There was insufficient explanation on the need to arrest the defendants against the principle of trial without detention,” Judge Won Jung-sook said in statements.

“In light of the importance of the case, whether the defendants are responsible, and if so, how much they are, should be determined through sufficient legal battles and court hearings,” the Judge added.

Two other group executives, Choi Gee-sung and Kim Jong-joong, who together with Lee are alleged by the prosecution to be the masterminds of the aforementioned merger, also avoided arrest.

Several irregularities have been attributed to this operation, including alleged accounting fraud aimed at consolidating Lee’s leadership shortly after his father, the group’s chairman Lee Kun-hee, had a heart attack from which he has not yet recovered.

All three executives are accused of stock price manipulation, violating external audit laws and unfair trading.

Investigators believe that the value of Cheil Industries, one of the two companies of the group that was merged and of which Lee was the majority shareholder, was artificially inflated, and the opposite was done with the other company involved, Samsung C&T.

The three are also believed to have inflated the value of Samsung Bioepis, a joint venture between US-based Biogen and Samsung Biologics, which is also a subsidiary of Cheil, by some 4.5 billion won ($3 billion).

Lee, who has denied the accusations, is also awaiting retrial for his alleged role in the so-called “Korean Rasputin” corruption scandal that rocked the country in 2016 and led to the impeachment of then-president Park Geun-hye.

Lee was arrested in 2017 in connection with the case and went on to spend a year in jail. He was released after an appeals court suspended his sentence, but the Supreme Court ordered a retrial last year revising the size of the bribes.

Last month the magnate apologized for the scandals involving the Samsung Group and said he would not be continuing with the system of heredity transfers of control in South Korea’s largest company.