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(LEAD) Samsung heir awaits court's decision on arrest at detention center

All News 14:59 January 18, 2017

(ATTN: RECASTS headline, lead, throughout with end of hearing; CHANGES photo)

SEOUL, Jan. 18 (Yonhap) -- Lee Jae-yong, Samsung Group's de facto leader, on Wednesday attended a court hearing that would decide the legality of his detention over allegations he bribed President Park Geun-hye's close friend in return for business favors.

After a nearly four-hour interrogation session at the Seoul Central District Court, Lee, vice chairman of Samsung Electronics Co., was escorted to a detention center in Uiwang, south of the capital city, where he will wait for the court's decision. The result is likely to come out near or after midnight.

"We have fully explained (our stance) to the court," Lee's attorney Song Woo-chul told reporters after the interrogation was completed. "We are sure that the court will make a wise decision."

Song said whether the money given by Samsung was in return for any kind of favors was the most debated issue in court.

On his way to and from the court, Lee declined to answer any questions raised by reporters.

A team of special investigators looking into the scandal centered on the president sought the warrant against Lee on Monday on charges of bribery, embezzlement and perjury.

Lee is accused of giving or promising to give some 43 billion won (US$36.3 million) worth of bribes to Park's jailed friend Choi Soon-sil in return for the state-run pension fund's backing of a merger of two Samsung affiliates.

Prosecutors suspect that the kickbacks given to Choi were the same as those given to President Park.

The merger was seen as critical for Lee, the only son of ailing Samsung Electronics Chairman Lee Kun-hee, to pave the way for a management succession to the junior Lee.

The younger Lee became a board member of Samsung Electronics in October, and his father has been hospitalized since suffering a heart attack in 2014.

The Samsung scion has denied most of the allegations raised during a parliamentary hearing held last month. Investigators have accused him of perjury.

The probe team's decision to seek a warrant came a few days after Lee was grilled by investigators for about 22 hours from Thursday to early Friday.

If arrested, Lee will be the first senior executive arrested over the latest scandal. It will also mark the first time that the head of the country's largest business group has been put behind bars.

The investigation team said they will carry out their investigation into three other senior Samsung executives, including Vice Chairman Choi Gee-sung, without detention.

Lee Jae-yong, vice chairman of Samsung Electronics Co., is surrounded by reporters as he arrives at the Seoul Central District Court on Jan. 18, 2017, to attend a court hearing to review the legality of his detention. The special prosecutor has requested an arrest warrant for Lee, Samsung's de facto leader, on charges of bribery in connection with the scandal that has led to President Park Geun-hye's impeachment. (Yonhap)

scaaet@yna.co.kr
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