Hereditary Samsung chieftain arrested for bribing disgraced president's "Shamanic" cult leader

Lee Jae-yong is nominally "vice-chairman" of Samsung, but his father, Samsung chairman Lee Kun-hee, is considered to be a mere figurehead, with Lee Jae-yong as the true boss of the company.

On Friday morning, Korean police placed Lee Jae-yong in custody at the Seoul Detention Centre, acting on a Seoul Central District Court arrest warrant for charges of bribery, perjury and embezzlement. The charges are part of a larger scandal that is rocking South Korea from the top down, whose most high-profile feature so far was the 2016 impeachment of President Park Geun-hye.

The prosecutors allege that Lee Jae-yong paid $37m in bribes to cult organizations affiliated with Choi Soon-sil, who was also arrested in 2016 -- and who has been characterized as a kind of Rasputin figure in the Park Geun-hye administration, carrying on the work of her father, the Shamanistic-Evangelical cult leader, Choi Tae-min.

Until today, no Samsung executive had ever been the subject of criminal charges.

According to a translation provided by the BBC, the court said in a statement: "It is acknowledged that it is necessary to arrest [Lee Jae-Yong] in light of a newly added criminal charge and new evidence."

Lee has generally considered the de facto head of Samsung Group, since his father, still the chairman by title, was hospitalized in 2014.

Investigators believe that Lee, who is also known by the name Jay Y. Lee, is involved in the corruption scandal that lead to last year's impeachment of South Korean President Park Geun-hye.

Samsung chief Lee Jae-yong arrested on charges of bribery [Cyrus Farivar/Ars Technica]

(Image: Lee_Jae-yong_in_2016, KBS, CC-BY)

Notable Replies

  1. Refreshing to see a economy czar called to account for his crimes and not some fall guy. That does not occur often.

  2. renke says:

    not only in South Korea, the Spanish Inquisation Judiciary is also on a run

    Spain’s highest criminal court has launched a probe against the former heads of the central bank and the stock market regulator, declaring them formal suspects over their failure to stop the ill-fated flotation of Bankia.


    Ordóñez has connections to the PSOE, and the the party, together with PP, formed a very grand coalition to hinder every small step clearing up the financial melt-down mess.

    I am sure that he did not expect this.

  3. Jorpho says:

    At least Reverend Moon is off the scene now.

    Or maybe that's just what they want us to think.

  4. We need a few of those spanish judges. I was impressed when they didn't relent prosecuting Pinochet and were responsible for his incarceration in the UK.

  5. This link shamelessly ganked from "Onyx Spartan II" on Ars; but, if true, it would appear that the Samsung-bribery bit is a sort of appendage-scandal connected to an affair that, well, makes that whole "Remember when the US was alarmingly close to being de-facto under the presidency of Nancy Reagan's favorite astrologer?" incident seem a trifle tame.

    The fact that South Korea's pretty-much-actually-Omni-Consumer-Products-but-in-real-life conglomerate is scamming the pension fund is just garden variety neutral evil; the backstory is nuts.

Continue the discussion

6 more replies