Prosecutors Question Samsung Executive over Political Scandal

Prosecutors Question Samsung Executive over Political Scandal

SEOUL, Nov. 3 (Yonhap) -- Prosecutors on Thursday questioned an executive director at South Korea's largest conglomerate Samsung Group over allegations that a close friend of President Park Geun-hye pressured local companies to donate some tens of billions of won to two nonprofit foundations.

Prosecutors said the executive, identified only by his surname Kim, appeared at the Seoul Central District Prosecutors' Office to bear witness to suspicions that Choi Soon-sil collaborated with An Chong-bum, former presidential secretary, to push the companies.

There have been allegations that the money at the foundations, Mir and K-Sports, was then unlawfully funneled to Choi, who is at the center of a political scandal that is rocking the country and Park's leadership.

Samsung is the third conglomerate to be investigated over the suspicions after Lotte and SK, among 53 companies from 19 business groups that took part in the donation worth some 80 billion won (US$70 million) in total.

The amount donated by Samsung's affiliates totaled some 20 billion won.

Prosecutors are also looking into allegations that the conglomerate directly gave some 2.8 million euros ($3.1 million) to a German company owned by Choi, under the name of a consulting arrangement.

Prosecutors have been accelerating their probe into the scandal, seeking a warrant to formally arrest the 60-year-old Choi and putting An under emergency detention to avoid the possible destruction of evidence.

A local court held a hearing earlier on Thursday to decide whether to issue the warrant against Choi. The ruling is likely to be delivered by Friday morning.

The latest scandal has sent Park's approval rating plunging to a woeful single digit and prompted nationwide calls for her resignation.

Still, Park has not issued an official statement regarding the scandal after she apologized in a nationally televised address last week for handing over drafts of presidential speeches to Choi and letting her edit them.

Choi is the daughter of Park's late mentor, Choi Tae-min, the leader of a questionable religious group who died in 1994. Park is known to have developed a friendship with the Choi family after her mother, then-first lady Yook Young-soo, was assassinated in 1974.'

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