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Samsung Chief Charged With Bribery And Embezzlement

Lee Jae-yong, acting head of Samsung, was indicted on bribery and embezzlement charges on Tuesday.
Chung Sung-Jun
Getty Images
Lee Jae-yong, acting head of Samsung, was indicted on bribery and embezzlement charges on Tuesday.

The acting head of Samsung, Lee Jae-yong, has been charged with bribery and embezzlement in connection with the corruption scandal that led to the impeachment of South Korea's president.

NPR's Elise Hu reported from Seoul that prosecutors announced the indictment after a three-month investigation:

"Samsung acting head Lee Jae-Yong got ensnared after documents showed Samsung funneled some $36 million to the president's close confidant. Prosecutors say the money was paid to win government support of a controversial 2015 company merger.

"The merger did go through, after a vote of support from the government. In a statement, Samsung says it has not paid bribes or made improper requests to the government. Lee is currently in jail awaiting further proceedings in his case."

Lee was arrested on Feb. 17, two months after President Park Geun-hye was impeached over allegations of corruption, influence-peddling and cult ties, as we reported.

Those corruption allegations were directly tied to the charges brought against Lee, who also goes by the name Jay Y. Lee.

Samsung is a family-controlled company, in which leadership of the operation is inherited. Lee is the grandson of Samsung's founder and is technically a vice chairman, but he "has become the company's de facto leader since his father, Chairman Lee Kun-hee, fell ill," as The Two Way reported.

"The attention on Lee has shone a light on the powerful, patriarchal family-owned conglomerates here known as chaebol,"Elise previously reported. "The public has grown wary of their influence and coziness with the halls of power."

Reuters reported that four other Samsung executives also were charged with bribery and "hiding assets overseas," among other crimes, and that the company had announced the resignations of three of the four.

Samsung is the world's leading seller of mobile phones and is South Korea's largest conglomerate.

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Rebecca Hersher (she/her) is a reporter on NPR's Science Desk, where she reports on outbreaks, natural disasters, and environmental and health research. Since coming to NPR in 2011, she has covered the Ebola outbreak in West Africa, embedded with the Afghan army after the American combat mission ended, and reported on floods and hurricanes in the U.S. She's also reported on research about puppies. Before her work on the Science Desk, she was a producer for NPR's Weekend All Things Considered in Los Angeles.