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 (March 6).
“The focus of this special prosecutor probe is the influence-peddling scandal, caused by using the government authority for personal interest and the collusion of government and business, which is a chronic cycle of corruption in our society,” special prosecutor Park Young-soo, said.
The special prosecutor’s office said the National Pension Service voted in favor 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 (Jay Y. Lee) colluded with others including the corporate strategy office chief Choi Gee-sung to bribe the president and Choi Soon-sil, aiming to receive support for his succession by embezzling corporate funds,” Park added, referring to the Samsung chief’s Korean name.
President 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 favors 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 which spark an election in Asia’s fourth-largest economy.