Special prosecutors probing alleged corruption at Samsung Group called in its vice chairman Friday amid intensifying speculation the conglomerate's top boss could be quizzed in coming days.
Cable news channel YTN showed live footage of Lee Hak-soo, Samsung's No. 2 executive, arriving at the special prosecutor's office. An official there, who declined to give his name, as well as Samsung Group confirmed that Lee had been summoned.
The summons of Lee, who was also questioned in mid-February, comes a day after Lee Jae-yong, the son of Samsung Chairman Lee Kun-hee, spent 14 hours with investigators.
An independent counsel has been looking into alleged wrongdoing at Samsung since early last month following allegations raised last year by a former top attorney for the conglomerate.
Kim Yong-chul, a former Samsung legal affairs official, claimed that the conglomerate created a 200 billion won (US$213 million, euro140 million) slush fund to bribe government officials, judges and prosecutors and purchase works of art.
Samsung has denied the allegations.
Lee Jae-yong, the chairman's 39-year-old son and also an executive at Samsung Electronics Co. _ the conglomerate's flagship corporation _ has long been widely considered the eventual successor to his father at the family-run business empire.
Investigators are also reportedly looking into long-simmering allegations of shady dealings involving the group's structure, particularly as to how it relates to the passage of corporate control from father to son.
For decades, South Korean conglomerates, known as "chaebol," have been accused of dubious dealings between subsidiaries to help controlling families evade taxes and transfer wealth to heirs.
Samsung consists of dozens of diverse corporations, some unlisted, and has a complex ownership structure involving cross-shareholdings by group companies.
Last year, a South Korean appeals court upheld a lower court ruling that found two Samsung executives guilty of selling bonds convertible to shares to Lee's children, including Lee Jae-Yong, at prices less-than-market value.
Both executives have appealed the ruling to the Supreme Court.
South Korean media have speculated since the probe began whether prosecutors will summon Chairman Lee Kun-hee, considered South Korea's top businessman.
The independent counsel has up to 105 days from the start of the probe to reach a conclusion, which means it could last until late April.
SBS TV reported on its Web site Friday, citing a special prosecution office official it did not identify, that investigators planned to question Lee within 10 days.
"Countdown to Chairman Lee's Summons," read a headline of an article published Thursday on the Web site of Money Today, an online financial news provider.
The special probe was approved by the National Assembly and former President Roh Moo-hyun, whose five-year term ended Monday.
Investigators have raided Samsung facilities and offices, including the group's headquarters and an office used by the 66-year-old chairman.
Associated Press Writer Hyung-Jin Kim in Seoul contributed to this report.