Lee Jae-yong, the vice chairman and heir apparent to Samsung Electronics, was arrested early Friday after a court ruled that South Korean special prosecutors delivered enough evidence against him in a corruption case.
Lee, 48, is one of the most powerful men in South Korea, and stands accused of bribery, embezzlement, and perjury. Prosecutors allege that he redirected millions of dollars to companies managed by Choi Soon-sil, a confidant of President Park Geun-hye, in an attempt to gain support for a merger between two Samsung affiliates. Park was impeached by the National Assembly in December, and while her duties have been suspended, she is currently immune from standard criminal charges; if a court rules to make the impeachment permanent, prosecutors would be free to open a criminal case against her.
"This investigation is about civilians, including Choi Soon-sil, meddling in state affairs," a spokesman for the prosecutors said. "There are allegations that Choi used her personal ties to President Park or possibly even colluded with the president to receive money and valuables from Samsung. That's why we are investigating the conglomerate. We are not targeting the conglomerate."