Samsung Group Chief Jay Y Lee Indicted for Bribery Charges

Samsung Group chief executive Jay Y. Lee
Samsung Group CEO Jay Y. Lee leaves after attending a hearing to review a detention warrant request against him at Seoul Central District Court, Seoul, January 18. Kim Hong-Ji/Reuters

South Korea's special prosecutor's office said on Tuesday it will charge Samsung chief Jay Y. Lee and four other executives with bribery and embezzlement amid a political scandal that has rocked the country.

Lee was arrested on February 17 over his alleged role in the corruption scandal involving impeached President Park Geun-hye, dealing a fresh blow to the technology giant and standard-bearer for Asia's fourth-largest economy.

A Constitutional Court ruling on whether to uphold the impeachment, which would result in South Korea's first democratically elected leader being thrown out of office, is expected next month.

"The five executives will face charges including bribery, embezzlement and hiding assets overseas," said Lee Kyu-chul, a spokesman for the special prosecutor, on the last day of its investigation.

Lee will also be charged with committing perjury before parliament, he added.

The other executives to be charged are Samsung vice chairman Choi Gee-sung, president Chang Choong-ki and Samsung president Park Sang-jin and executive vice president Hwang Sung-soo, the spokesman said.

A Samsung spokeswoman declined to comment on the charges.

Lee, the spokesman, said the case against President Park would be handed over to regular prosecutors with Park remaining a suspect, while signalling other conglomerates may also become involved in the investigation.

Park was impeached by parliament in December after accusations that she colluded with long-time friend Choi Soon-sil to pressure big businesses, including Samsung, to donate to two foundations set up to back the president's policy initiatives.

The special prosecutor's office will make an official announcement regarding the conclusion of its investigation on March 6.