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(LEAD) Samsung executives grilled over influence-peddling scandal

All Headlines 11:14 January 09, 2017

(ATTN: CHANGES photo; UPDATES with more details in para 3)

SEOUL, Jan. 9 (Yonhap) -- Two senior executives of South Korea's largest business group Samsung were questioned by investigators Monday as they accelerated the probe into allegations surrounding the influence-peddling scandal that has led to President Park Geun-hye's impeachment.

Choi Gee-sung, a vice chairman, and Chang Choong-ki, a president at the conglomerate, appeared in the office of the independent counsel team. They lead the group's future strategy planning division believed to be the de facto control tower that makes key decisions for Samsung and is closely linked to the ongoing scandal.

Choi and Chang entered the office, declining to comment on any of allegations raised against the group.

Samsung is suspected of giving financial support to foundations and a company controlled by Park's friend Choi Soon-sil, who is at the center of the scandal, in return for a state-run pension fund's backing of a major merger deal between Samsung subsidiaries in 2015.

The probe team is investigating whether the presidential office Cheong Wa Dae pressured the state fund to support the merger in return for favors Samsung had given to Park's friend, who is standing trial over a string of corruption charges.

"The two were called in to bear witness to the case but their statuses could change to that of suspect in the course of the interrogation," an official at the investigation team said.

Choi Gee-sung, a vice chairman at the country's largest business group Samsung, arrives at the investigation team's office in southern Seoul for questioning on Jan. 9, 2017. Samsung is suspected of giving financial support to foundations and a company controlled by President Park Geun-hye's friend, in return for a state-run pension fund's backing of a major merger deal between Samsung subsidiaries in 2015. (Yonhap)

scaaet@yna.co.kr
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