South Korea’s President Park Geun-hye colluded with her friend Choi Soon-sil to receive bribes from Samsung Group aimed at cementing Samsung Chief Jay Y. Lee’s control of the company, a special prosecutor said in a statement on Monday.
In a statement detailing the findings of its investigation, the special prosecutor’s office said the National Pension Service voted in favour of a merger of two Samsung Group affiliates in 2015, despite anticipating a 138.8 billion won ($119.87 million) loss.
“Samsung Group vice chairman Lee Jae-yong colluded with others including the corporate strategy office chief Choi Gee-sung to bribe the president and Choi Soon-sil with an aim to receive support for his succession by embezzling corporate funds,” special prosecutor Park Young-soo told a televised news conference, referring to the Samsung chief’s Korean name.
Park, Choi and Lee have all denied wrongdoing. Samsung Group did not immediately have comment, but has in the past denied it ever paid bribes or sought improper favours from Park.
The investigation looked into an influence-peddling scandal involving Park, who was impeached by parliament in December after accusations she had colluded with her long-time friend Choi to pressure big businesses to donate to two foundations set up to back the president’s policy initiatives.
The 65-year-old daughter of a former military strongman has had her powers suspended. The Constitutional Court will rule on whether to uphold parliament’s December impeachment of Park. The court is expected to hand down its decision sometime in March.
Should it uphold the impeachment, Park would become the country’s first democratically elected president to be thrown out of office and spark an election in Asia’s fourth-largest economy.
Lee, a third-generation leader of the Samsung tech giant “chaebol”, and four other executives, were last week charged with bribery and embezzlement over the corruption scandal.
Lee is accused of pledging 43 billion Korean won ($37.19 million) in bribes to a company and organisations backed by Park’s confidant Choi to curry favour and cement his control of the conglomerate.
Based on the main charges levied against Lee, he could face up to 20 years in prison if convicted.