Choi Soon-sil’s Niece Admits to Bribery Allegations Involving Samsung

It appears South Korean prosecutors have been able to flip Choi Soon-sil’s niece and she is testifying against her.  With Samsung heir Lee Jae-yong saying he felt pressured him to give money to Choi’s foundation and her own niece confirming the allegation, it seems the prosecutors have a very strong case against her now:

Chang Si-ho (front, L), Kim Chong (front, C) and Choi Soon-sil (front, R) stand trial at the Seoul Central District Court on Jan. 17, 2017. (Yonhap)

Choi Soon-sil, the woman at the center of a South Korean presidential impeachment scandal, clashed with a niece Tuesday over allegations they coerced Samsung Group into making donations to a sports foundation under their control.

Choi, her niece Chang Si-ho and former Vice Culture and Sports Minister Kim Chong were summoned to the Seoul Central District Court to testify on allegations they colluded to extort more than 1.6 billion won (US$1.35 million) in donations from the nation’s largest business group to the Korea Winter Sports Elite Center, which was established in June 2015.

Chang early on admitted that they forced the donations from Samsung and that she embezzled funds from the center. Her admission came a day after special prosecutors investigating the scandal sought an arrest warrant for Samsung heir Lee Jae-yong on charges of bribery.

According to the prosecutors, Lee was involved in Samsung’s decision to give up to 43 billion won to various organizations linked to Choi in return for the Park Geun-hye administration’s backing of a merger between two companies belonging to the conglomerate in 2015.  [Yonhap]

You can read more at the link, but what I haven’t seen strong evidence of yet is how President Park Geun-hye was involved in all of this?

Picture of the Day: Former ROK Health Minister Arrives In Court

In this file photo taken on Dec. 31, 2016, Moon Hyung-pyo, former health minister, arrives at the special investigation team’s office in Seoul to undergo questioning. He was indicted on Jan. 16, 2017, over suspicions that he exerted pressure on the state pension fund to back a mega merger deal between top conglomerate Samsung Group’s two units when he was the minister in 2015. (Yonhap)

Arrest Warrant Issued for Heir to Samsung for Perjury and Bribery

It will be interesting to see if the prosecutors have the evidence to prove their case because Samsung and the women behind the ROK Presidential scandal Choi Soon-sil as well as President Park Geun-hye are denying everything:

Lee Jae-yong, vice chairman of Samsung Electronics Co., leaves the special prosecutor’s office in Seoul on Jan. 13, 2017, after 22 hours of questioning over allegations Samsung Group offered financial aid to President Park Geun-hye’s longtime friend Choi Soon-sil, the woman at the center of a massive corruption scandal, in return for business favors. (Yonhap)

Special prosecutors on Monday requested an arrest warrant for Lee Jae-yong, Samsung Group’s de facto leader, on charges of bribery, embezzlement and perjury in connection with an influence-peddling scandal that led to President Park Geun-hye’s impeachment.

Lee, vice chairman of Samsung Electronics Co., is accused of giving or promising to give some 43 billion won (US$36.3 million) worth of bribes to Park’s jailed friend Choi Soon-sil in return for the state-run pension fund’s backing of a merger of two Samsung affiliates, the team’s spokesman Lee Kyu-chul told a regular press briefing.

Samsung signed a 22 billion won consulting contract in August 2015 with a Germany-based firm owned by the woman who is at the center of the scandal and allegedly sent the company billions of won, which was used to fund her daughter’s equestrian training, according to prosecutors. The money that was originally promised to be handed over was included in the amount deemed as bribes, Lee, the spokesman, said.

Some 20.4 billion won the group donated to two nonprofit foundations, allegedly linked to Choi, was also viewed as a kickback. It was the largest amount given by any business group to the organizations.

Prosecutors suspect Samsung supported Choi in return for the National Pension Service (NPS) approving the contested merger of two Samsung subsidiaries on July 17, 2015.  [Yonhap]

You can read more at the link.

Samsung Accused of Paying Choi Soon-sil to Influence Approval of Controversial Merger

The more I read about the Choi Soon-sil scandal the more I realize that she can arguably be considered a well connected lobbyist taking money from corporations to influence presidential policy.  In the United States lobbying is a well respected profession where in South Korea it can be considered bribery:

Chung Yoo-ra, the horseback rider daughter of Choi Soon-sil, President Park Geun-hye’s longtime friend (Yonhap)

Samsung Electronics, the country’s largest listed company, picked up the tab for a sojourn by Choi Soon-sil, the controversial friend of President Park Geun-hye, and her daughter to Germany last year, the JoongAng Ilbo learned Tuesday.

Choi, 60, is a prime suspect in the abuse of power scandal that led to the impeachment of Park earlier this month. The prosecution indicted Choi in November on charges of abuse of power, coercion, attempted coercion and attempted fraud, making clear that the president is a co-conspirator in all of her alleged crimes. Park was impeached on Dec. 9 for alleged violations of the constitution and criminal laws.

Samsung has been accused of generously sponsoring the 20-year-old daughter of Choi, Chung Yoo-ra. Chung was a gold medalist in dressage in the 2014 Incheon Asian Games, and suspicions were raised that the tech giant financed some of Chung’s activities as an equestrian athlete, such as buying a horse, Vitana V, reportedly worth 1 billion won ($838,574).  [Joong Ang Ilbo]

Here is what she may have been lobbying for to President Park in return for the money that Samsung was giving her sports foundation:

The independent counsel’s team is trying to find a link between Samsung’s generosity toward Choi and Chung and the National Pension Service’s approval of a controversial merger between Samsung C&T and Cheil Industries last year. The $8 billion deal solidified heir apparent Lee Jae-yong’s grip on Samsung Electronics.

The prosecution investigated whether the Blue House strong-armed the state-run pension fund into backing the merger. It failed to prove the suspicion.

Determining the nature of the money Samsung gave to Choi and Chung — whether it was bribes for favors or not — is the top priority of investigators at the independent counsel, a source from the law enforcement authority told the JoongAng Ilbo.

You can read more at the link.

Samsung Announces Permanent Stop to Production of Galaxy Note 7

I can’t remember anything like this happening before with a major manufacturer stopping production of an electronic device due to safety reasons:

samsung image

Samsung has permanently halted production and sales of its Galaxy Note 7 smartphone after failing to correct a problem that was causing the devices to burst into flames.

The loss of one of its flagship smartphones is a major embarrassment for Samsung , which was forced to recall 2.5 million Note 7s shortly after the device went on sale in August.

The South Korean firm attempted to fix the problem by switching battery suppliers and updating the smartphone’s software. Company executives issued a slew of apologies.

But when replacement phones were issued, a number of customers reported that those devices also caught fire, including one aboard a passenger jet.

Samsung on Monday advised all customers to stop using the phones, sending its shares tumbling by 8% in Seoul. The world’s biggest smartphone maker said Tuesday it was killing off the phone entirely.  [CNN]

You can read more at the link.

Apple Wins Appeal Decision; Samsung Ordered to Pay $120 Million for Copyright Infringement

Here is the latest on the Apple versus Samsung copyright battle:

samsung image

Overturning an earlier decision, a U.S. appeals court on Friday reinstated a lower-court verdict that Samsung Electronics pay Apple US$120 million for violating three iPhone patents.

In February, a three-member panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit in Washington ruled that Samsung did not infringe upon the patents on “quick links,” “slide-to-unlock” and “auto-correct” technologies, and therefore does not need to pay $120 million ordered by a lower court.

Apple appealed that decision, arguing that the panel relied on extra-record evidence “none of which, it said, was of record and that the panel appears to have located only through independent research,” according to court records.

On Friday, a full panel of judges at the same court accepted Apple’s appeal in a 8-3 decision.  [Yonhap]

You can read the rest at the link, but for Apple the $120 million is probably enough to pay their lawyer fees considering how long this fight has been going on.