Samsung vice chairman denies bribery allegation

Seoul: Samsung Electronics Vice Chairman Lee Jae-yong on Tuesday denied bribery allegations over last year’s controversial merger of two subsidiaries of the group which is South Korea’s largest family-run conglomerate.

“The merger of two companies has nothing to do with the transfer (of management control) for me and any other,” Xinhua news agency quoted Lee as telling lawmakers during a parliamentary hearing for the corruption scandal involving President Park Geun-hye and her longtime confidante.

Lee and other chiefs of the country’s major conglomerates attended the hearing on allegations that they decided to donate tens of millions of US dollars to two non-profit foundations controlled by Choi Soon-sil who has been charged with abuse of power and extortion.

Samsung Group is suspected of making donations to the foundations and bribing Choi in return for support from the national pension fund in last year’s controversial merger of Samsung C&T and Cheil Industries to create a de-facto holding company of the group.

Lee said Samsung’s donation was not made in a bid to receive any business favour or support, noting that Park just asked for the donation to flourish culture and develop sports during his meeting with her.

In July last year, Park held an open meeting with major conglomerate heads and met separately one-by-one with some of the chiefs.

Lee admitted that he had met privately with Park twice in July last year and in February this year.

The merger was extremely crucial to Lee to inherit management control of the biggest family-run conglomerate from his father Chairman Lee Kun-hee who has been hospitalised for over two and a half years.

Samsung’s founding family has been criticised for controlling overall group subsidiaries with a handful of equities through the complicated web of cross-shareholdings.