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Civilian panel to decide on allowing outside review of Samsung heir case

Industry 10:00 June 11, 2020

SEOUL, June 11 (Yonhap) -- A civilian panel will decide Thursday whether it is necessary for the nation's top prosecution to convene a panel of outside experts to review the validity of an ongoing probe into Samsung heir Lee Jae-yong.

The Seoul Central District Prosecutors Office said its civilian panel, made up of 15 ordinary citizens, including a taxi driver and a teacher, will look into the written opinions submitted by both the prosecutors and Lee, vice chairman of Samsung Electronics, to make a decision within the day.

If a committee is formed, it will, in turn, conclude within two weeks the validity of the investigation into Lee and a possible indictment.

Earlier this week, a Seoul court rejected the prosecution's request to arrest Samsung Group's de facto leader Lee over the ongoing probe into a controversial merger between two Samsung affiliates and alleged accounting fraud at Samsung Biologics in 2015.

The court cited "insufficient explanation on the need and validity to arrest the defendants against the principle of trial without detention" as a reason.

The court also denied arrest warrants for two other Samsung executives, Choi Gee-sung and Kim Jong-joong, from the group's now-disbanded control tower, the Future Strategy Office.

The Samsung scion is accused of playing a role in the merger between Cheil Industries Inc. and Samsung C&T, which the prosecutors suspect was designed to help him take over control of the group from his ailing father, Lee Kun-hee.

Samsung Electronics Vice Chairman Lee Jae-yong leaves the Seoul Detention Center in Uiwang, south of Seoul, on June 9, 2020, after a court denied the issuance of an arrest warrant. (Yonhap)

Last week, Lee and Kim requested for a public assessment on the investigation.

The prosecution service introduced the outside review system in 2018 to enhance neutrality and fairness of its probes into cases that are of great public interest.

With the court's decision not to arrest Lee, a decision by the panel was expected to influence the prosecution's move to indict him, though it is not legally-binding.

The prosecution reportedly argued that there was no need to form a committee to determine on an indictment, as the investigation was being conducted in a fair manner and had garnered sufficient evidence to indict him.

It is also counting on the judge's statement on the need for legal procedures to argue that an indictment is inevitable.

While rejecting the arrest warrant for Lee, Judge Won Jung-sook said, "The basic facts (of the case) have all been explained. And prosecutors seem to have already secured a considerable amount of evidence through their investigation."

"In light of the importance of the case, whether the defendants are responsible, and if so, how much they are, should be determined through sufficient legal battles and court hearings," she said.

Lee and the two executives have denied any wrongdoing. Samsung has claimed that Lee was not briefed on and did not order the allegedly illegal transactions.

jaeyeon.woo@yna.co.kr
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