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)