Samsung chief’s wife to be questioned

From News Services

SEOUL, South Korea — Special prosecutors probing alleged corruption at Samsung Group plan to summon the wife of the conglomerate’s chairman for questioning, news reports said Tuesday.

The mass-circulation Chosun Ilbo newspaper, citing prosecutors, reported on its Web site that Hong Ra-hee, married to Samsung Chairman Lee Kun-hee, would be called in Wednesday afternoon.

Parliament and South Korea’s former president approved an independent counsel investigation into South Korea’s largest conglomerate in November following sensational allegations made by Samsung’s former top lawyer.

Kim Yong-chul claimed the conglomerate created a 200 billion won ($202 million) slush fund to bribe government officials, judges and prosecutors, and that some of the money was used by Hong to purchase expensive works of art from abroad.


Samsung has denied the allegations.

The Chosun Ilbo, South Korea’s largest newspaper, cited prosecutor Yun Jung-sok as saying Hong would be summoned Wednesday afternoon to be queried about the art allegations.

Hong serves as the director general of the Leeum Samsung Museum of Art in Seoul.

Yonhap news agency carried a similar report. Independent counsel officials could not immediately be reached for confirmation.

Samsung declined to comment on the reports.

Since starting work in January, investigators have raided Samsung offices and questioned key officials, including Vice Chairman Lee Hak-soo.

Lee Jae-yong, an executive at Samsung Electronics Co. and the son of Lee and Hong, has been questioned. Hong’s brother, Hong Seok-hyun, chairman of the influential JoongAng Ilbo newspaper and a former ambassador to the United States, was also questioned.

South Korean media have reported that the Samsung chairman himself was likely to be summoned sometime before the end of the probe in about three weeks.


South Korean conglomerates, known as "chaebol," have long been accused of influence-peddling as well as dubious transactions between subsidiaries to help controlling families evade taxes and transfer wealth to heirs.

Samsung consists of dozens of diverse corporations, some unlisted, and has a complex ownership structure involving cross-shareholdings by group companies. Samsung Electronics Co. is the group’s flagship enterprise.

Besides the slush fund and art allegations, investigators are looking into long-simmering allegations of murky dealings involving the group’s ownership structure.

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