Samsung leader, Jay Y Lee, marched into his courtroom hearing on Wednesday morning, and his next stop could be jail. The billionaire businessman has a long day ahead of him, waiting on a South Korean judge to decide if he should be arrested for his role in a sweeping corruption scandal.
That decision could come well past midnight. Prosecutors want Lee arrested on charges of bribery, embezzlement, and false testimony. They say he paid more than $36 million to organizations link to Choi Soon-sil, a close friend of disgraced President Park Geun-hye at the center of the scandal, in exchange for political favors.
Reuters Tony Munroe says given the charges against Lee, handcuffs are definitely a possibility.>> It is certainly possible that judge would decide, this does warrant Lee's arrest pending trial. There is precedent for those, the heads of conglomerate to be treated leniently whether it's reduced sentences, or suspended jail sentences, or things like that.
Although there is less acceptance perhaps of that sort of thing nowadays than there used to be.>> Lee was grilled by investigators for 22 hours straight last week and denies any wrong doing. Either way it puts his company in an awkward spot.>> Certainly none of this is good for Samsung.
Already it was in the process of a rather prolonged generational transfer of control. Jay Lee's father was incapacitated by a heart attack in 2014. Jay Lee has been the de facto leader of the group on a day-to-day basis. Jay Lee's absence wouldn't change very much. But if he were to go away to prison that would affect the strategic thinking in his ability to control on big picture planning.
>> On Tuesday, prosecutors said they wouldn't seek arrest warrants for three other Samsung group executives. That decision based on damage limitation for the company. Lee's vast empire makes up 17% of South Korea's economy. Meaning a problem for Samsung is a problem for the country.