[THE INVESTOR] Samsung’s de facto chief appears to be taking efforts to say out of the public eye, rather than resuming his official duties, amid stronger-than-expected backlash over the court’s decision that released him earlier this week, as well as a police probe into his father’s secret funds.
Samsung Electronics Vice Chairman Lee Jae-yong reportedly expressed his intention to return to work as soon as possible while he was in custody. However, it seems to be difficult for him to return anytime soon, a Samsung official told Yonhap News Agency, citing growing controversy over the court’s verdict.
Samsung Electronics Vice Chairman Lee Jae-yong
The Seoul Appeals Court on Feb. 5 ordered a suspended sentence, overturning a lower court’s decision to put Lee behind bars for five years. While acknowledging the charges of bribery, the upper court rejected a special counsel’s accusation that it was linked to his succession.
Criticism grew in political circles, citing Lee as the key person in the high-profile bribery scandal that led to the impeachment of former President Park Geun-hye.
Since returning home on Feb. 5, Lee has avoided attention. For three days, Lee was not seen at Samsung Electronics’ Seoul office, according to reports.
Samsung has also remained mum since Lee’s return, despite reports on the possibility of the vice chairman appearing at the 2018 PyeongChang Winter Olympics.
Meanwhile, police on Feb. 8 said they had booked Samsung Chairman Lee Kun-hee over his alleged secret funds worth 400 billion won (US$368 million) discovered in a recent investigation. The funds were found across numerous accounts registered under borrowed names, according to a special investigation team at the Korea National Police Agency. Police have sent the case to the prosecution on charges of tax evasion.
The funds are allegedly part of massive secret funds found in 2007 under the special counsel’s probe, according to investigators. Samsung reportedly said that the funds were the chairman’s inherited money from his father, Samsung founder Lee Byung-chull, who had also kept the money under bank accounts with borrowed names as a means of evading taxation.
Since he suffered a heart attack in 2014, the chairman has been under treatment at Samsung Medical Center in Gangnam, and is reportedly in a semicomatose state.
By Cho Chung-un/The Korea Herald (firstname.lastname@example.org)