Samsung Chief Lee Jae-yong Arrested For Bribery As Corruption Scandal Investigation Expands

It's said that bad publicity is better than no publicity, though Samsung might disagree as the latter continues to pile on. Following its Galaxy Note 7 fiasco and the subsequent fire that broke out at its battery plant, the latest bad news for Samsung is that its de facto leader, Lee Jae-yong, has been arrested over his alleged role in a political corruption scandal involving tens of millions of dollars in bribe payments.

Authorities have detained Lee, the 48-year-old grandson of Samsung's founder and heir apparent to take over the company, on multiple charges including bribery, embezzlement, and perjury. Lee allegedly doled out around $36 million in bribery payments from Samsung to entities linked to Choi-Soon-sil, a friend of President Park Geun-hye. In return, it's alleged Lee would receive political favors—in particular the payments were to ensure government backing of a merger of two Samsung affiliates in 2015 that helped Lee inherit corporate control from his father, who was incapacitated.

Police Handcuffs

Lee is also accused of hiding assets overseas and concealing profit he gained as a result of his alleged criminal activity. Both President Park Geun-hye and her friend Choi-Soon Li have denied any wrongdoing. Samsung has admitted to making payments, but insists it did nothing wrong, saying the payments were not in exchange for political favors of any kind.

This is the first time that a top person at Samsung has been arrested on corruption charges. Lee has also avoided major legal trouble up to this point, as he's never been convicted of a crime. Since all this went down, Parliament voted to impeach Ms. Park, whose presidential powers remain suspended. A court will rule in the coming weeks on whether to permanently remove Ms. Park or reinstate her powers.

Prosecutors tried to arrest Lee last month but were denied by a court in Seoul that ruled there was not evidence of bribery to warrant an arrest. Investigators have since collected more details, this time presenting the judge with enough evidence for the court to find sufficient legal grounds to make an arrest.

"We will do our best to ensure that the truth is revealed in the court proceedings," Samsung said in a statement.

Prosecutors have 20 days to indict Lee. They're also expected to bring bribery charges against Ms. Park, though she can't be indicted while still in office.