Seoul, June 8 (efe-epa).- A court in South Korea began deliberating on Monday on whether or not to approve an arrest warrant against Samsung Group’s de facto head for his role in the controversial merger of two affiliates in 2015 with the goal of cementing his leadership.
Lee Jae-yong appeared at the Seoul Central District Court around 10 am wearing a face mask and refused to respond to questions from the journalists, according to South Korean news agency Yonhap.
The prosecution has requested pre-trial detention for Lee and two other former senior Samsung executives, Choi Gee-sung and Kim Jong-joong, all of whom it considers to be masterminds of the merger.
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 (about $3.31 billion).
The hearing is expected to last several hours and the court’s decision expected to be announced late Monday or early Tuesday.
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. EFE-EPA