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Investigators call in Samsung's vice chairman for questioning amid scandal probe

Investigators call in Samsung's vice chairman for questioning amid scandal probe

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.
"I will sincerely answer" their questions, Lee Hak-soo, Samsung's No. 2 executive, said upon arrival at the special prosecutor's office in footage shown on cable news channel YTN.
Lee, who was also questioned in mid-February, said he received the summons Thursday night. Kim In-joo, a top official in Samsung's strategic planning office, was also summoned.
The questioning of the executives came a day after Lee Jae-yong, an executive at Samsung Electronics Co. and son of Samsung Chairman Lee Kun-hee, spent 14 hours with investigators. Samsung Electronics is the group's flagship company.
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, 39, has long been widely seen in South Korea as 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 organizational structure, particularly how it may relate to the possible transfer of corporate control from father to son.
For decades, South Korean conglomerates, known as "chaebol," have been accused of dubious transactions 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.
An official at the special prosecutor's office said no one was immediately available who could comment on the reports.
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.
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Associated Press Writer Hyung-Jin Kim in Seoul contributed to this report.


Updated : 2021-04-15 17:08 GMT+08:00