South Korea panel says Samsung heir should not be indicted

An independent review panel in South Korea said Friday the heir to the country’s Samsung empire should not be indicted over a controversial merger of two business units seen as a key step to his succession. 

Lee Jae-yong, vice chairman of Samsung Electronics, is already being re-tried on charges of bribery, embezzlement and other offences in connection with a corruption scandal that brought down former South Korean president Park Geun-hye.

The merger case is separate from his ongoing retrial. 

The review  panel — comprised of 15 experts from legal circles, academia, media and civic groups — said it was “hard to substantiate” prosecutors’ claims that Lee had broken the law and he should not be indicted, Yonhap news agency reported.

Prosecutors suspect Lee of being involved in price manipulation and illegal trading during the 2015 merger of Cheil Industries and Samsung C&T.

They had sought an arrest warrant for the 52-year-old but a court declined their request earlier this month, ruling there was not sufficient probable cause for his arrest or those of two former Samsung executives.

The panel’s recommendation is not legally binding but it could influence prosecutors’ decision on whether to indict Lee.

Since the introduction of the panel system in 2018, it has issued recommendations in eight cases and prosecutors have followed all of them.