Jay Y. Lee, the group chief of South Korean conglomerate Samsung, has been arrested by the authorities over his alleged role in a corruption scandal that shook the country and led to the impeachment of President Park Geun-hye. The scion of the Lee dynasty, that has founded and controlled Samsung over three generations, was taken into custody at the Seoul Detention Center.
The judge in the case announced his decision almost 10 hours after Lee had left the court. The decision follows a day-long, closed-door. The move surprised many, considering that the same court had rejected demands for Lee’s arrest last month. Samsung Electronics president Park Sang-jin, whose arrest was also requested last month, managed to come clean this time as well. The court said that Park’s arrest was not needed in light of his “position, the boundary of his authority and his actual role”.
Apparently, the prosecution managed to convince the judge this time by producing fresh evidence. In his ruling, the judge said:
We acknowledge the cause and necessity of the arrest.
The Samsung group along with Lee and his lawyers, have continued denying any wrongdoing in the case.
Meanwhile, it is expected to be business as usual at Samsung. After all, Lee wasn’t exactly running all the companies in the holdings group. However, his sudden departure — if it extends to a significant term — could affect business. As the Vice- Chairman of the group, Lee is the de-facto leader of the company and is responsible for making important strategic decisions.
Since his father was incapacitated by a hear attack last year, Lee has been attempting to run the company, however, his progress has been impeded first by the Note 7 scandal and then, by Samsung’s alleged involvement with the highly publicized corruption case involving the South Korean President.
The group, which has companies who are world leaders in spheres like Smartphones, memory chips and Flat screen TVs, will now attempt to function on their own. While the day to day operations won’t pose a difficulty, strategic decisions will. Considering that Samsung presidents are elected for a one year period, the it falls to Lee to take decisions about the future — something he can’t very well do while in jail.
Samsung Electronics shares opened down 1.2 percent. Samsung C&T Corp, which is the de facto holding company from where the Samsung Group is operated, opened down 3.2 percent following the news of Lee’s arrest.