A Seoul court said on Tuesday it would hold a hearing to decide on the prosecution's request for warrants to arrest Jay Y. Lee and Samsung and other charges.
Samsung officials, who had vowed to "reveal the truth in the court" before the arrest warrant was granted, expressed serious concerns that a leadership vacuum would make the group's key business decisions hit a standstill.
Prosecutors were seeking the arrest of the de facto head of Samsung on charges that he bribed the president and a close associate. The pension fund's current chief was arrested past year on suspicion of pressuring the fund to back the merger, which helped Lee increase his influence in Samsung Electronics without spending any of his money.
Lee admitted that Samsung transferred funds to a company and foundations controlled by Choi Soon-sil, President Park's confidante, but denied allegations that he expected to win any government favors.
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According to Bloomberg the de facto head of Samsung, known professionally as Jay Y. Lee, had been summoned to court as of 6 AM local time on February 17.
They are also investigating Lee on allegations of embezzlement of Samsung funds, hiding assets overseas and lying under oath during a parliamentary hearing.
The powerful vice chairman of the Samsung Group faced an hours-long wait in detention on Thursday as a court decided his fate in relation to the corruption scandal that has engulfed South Korea, local media said.
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In December 2016, the South Korean Parliament approved Park's dismissal.
Lee avoided arrest last month when the court dismissed prosecutors' request, citing the lack of evidence. An approval would also help bring bribery charges against President Park.
Lee's arrest is likely to put greater public focus on three key executives at the sprawling conglomerate.
Samsung has "never" offered bribes to the president expecting something in return nor has it sought wrongful favors, the company said.
If Lee is arrested it could deal a serious blow to Samsung, the world's biggest maker of smartphones, memory chips and flat-screen televisions, potentially hampering strategic decision-making such as new investments and acquisitions.
The merger in 2015 of Samsung C&T and Cheil Industries was opposed by many investors who said it wilfully undervalued the former unit's shares.
Lee took over day-to-day operations of Samsung after his father stepped back because of health issues in 2014.
Park, who remains in the presidential Blue House, could become the first democratically elected leader in South Korea to be forced from office.
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