Lee Jae-yong, the de facto leader of Samsung Group, South Korea’s largest conglomerate, appeared in court on Monday for a hearing to decide whether he will be arrested again amid allegations of his involvement in a merger and accounting fraud.
Lee, also the vice chairman of Samsung Electronics, showed up at the Seoul Central District Court in southern Seoul, reports Yonhap News Agency.
The hearing is likely to last at least several hours, as many expect the court’s decision to come out late Monday night or early Tuesday morning.
He is under probe in connection with the controversial merger of two Samsung affiliates in 2015, an apparent key process in his takeover of control of the group from his ailing father, Lee Kun-hee.
Last week, the Seoul Central District Prosecutors Office sought an arrest warrant for the Samsung scion, arguing he should be put back in jail, given the seriousness of his alleged wrongdoings and the possibility of destroying relevant evidence.
It is a prelude to a widely expected indictment against Lee.
Prosecutors also requested arrest warrants for two former Samsung executives, Choi Gee-sung and Kim Jong-joong, who had led the group’s now-disbanded control tower, the Future Strategy Office.
The three are accused of engaging in unfair trading, stock price manipulation and violation of laws on external audits.
Kim faces an additional charge of making a false testimony in court.
Investigators suspect the group’s top management of having been deeply involved in what they believe was a systemic effort to help the father-to-son transition of Samsung’s leadership.
They believe that Lee was involved in a scheme to inflate the value of Cheil Industries Inc. and lower that of Samsung C&T prior to the merger in 2015, Yonhap News Agency reported.
Lee and his aides were also suspected of inflating the value of Samsung Bioepis, a joint venture between Samsung Biologics and the US-based Biogen Inc., by approximately 4.5 trillion won ($3 billion).
Samsung Biologics is a subsidiary of Cheil Industries, of which Lee was the largest shareholder, with a stake of 23.2 per cent.
The probe began in November 2018 when the Securities and Futures Commission under the Financial Services Commission filed a complaint against Samsung Biologics over suspicions of accounting fraud.
Samsung has said that it has never deliberately manipulated the value of its companies and the prosecution has wrongly viewed the 2015 merger as related to its management succession.
If the warrant is approved, it will be the first time in 28 months that Lee will be arrested for criminal charges.
He was imprisoned for about a year in 2017 for bribing a confidant of former President Park Geun-hye in return for her administration’s support for the 2015 merger.
He was released in February 2018 after his sentence was suspended by an appeals court. But the Supreme Court ordered a retrial last year revising the size of the bribes.