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 user 2007-11-26 at 12:40:00 pm Views: 72
  • #20888

    South Korea Approves Samsung Probe
    South Korea – South Korea’s National Assembly passed a bill Friday
    demanding an independent investigation into allegations of bribery at
    the Samsung Group conglomerate.The bill was to go to President Roh
    Moo-hyun for final approval. His office has said he may veto it because
    state prosecutors have already launched a probe into the scandal at the
    country’s largest industrial group, which includes Samsung Electronics
    Co.The single-chamber legislature, however, can override a veto if a
    majority of its 299 members attend a floor vote and two-thirds of them
    vote in favor.A total of 155 lawmakers voted for the bill Friday, 17
    cast ballots against it and 17 abstained. A total of 110 lawmakers were
    absent and did not vote.The legislation calls for Roh to name an
    independent counsel to delve into allegations against Samsung,
    including that it operated slush funds to bribe influential figures
    such as prosecutors, judges and government officials.

    accusations include claims Samsung manipulated evidence and witnesses
    in a court case over a purported deal that critics say was aimed at
    transferring corporate control of Samsung from the group’s chairman,
    Lee Kun-hee, to his only son.The lawmakers have cast doubt on whether
    state prosecutors could effectively carry out a probe given that some
    were among those accused of accepting bribes, saying in the bill that a
    probe by those investigators “cannot earn the people’s confidence.”The
    allegations cited by the legislation are based on the claims of a
    former top Samsung legal affairs official, who this month went public
    to reveal the alleged wrongdoing.Kim Yong-chul, himself a former
    prosecutor, said he was responsible for bribing those in the legal
    field and claimed that Lim Chai-jin – the nation’s new top prosecutor -
    was among those who took payments. Lim has denied the allegation.

    civic groups subsequently filed a criminal lawsuit against Samsung,
    prompting state prosecutors to open a probe.On Thursday, Samsung, which
    has vociferously denied the allegations, expressed regret over the
    lawmakers’ impending action, but said it would cooperate with an
    independent probe. On Friday, the business group said it stood by that
    comment.The bill’s passage – the seventh time a special prosecutor has
    been approved by the National Assembly – came after lawmakers reached a
    deal to combine two separate proposals into a single bill.A coalition
    of liberal lawmakers, many aligned with Roh, agreed to a proposal by
    conservatives to also investigate their claims that Roh received
    Samsung money before and after the 2002 election.The legislation does
    not cite Roh by name but states that those in “the highest political
    echelon” allegedly received illicit funds from Samsung during and after
    the 2002 presidential race.”We have already said we can consider the
    veto rights and that is still effective,” Cheon Ho-seon, Roh’s
    spokesman, told reporters. But he added a final decision would be made
    after receiving the bill.The legislation calls for Roh to appoint an
    independent counsel out of three candidates recommended by the Korean
    Bar Association. The special prosecutor, aided by 33 assistant
    investigators, can investigate for up to 105 days.Huge South Korean
    industrial groups such as Samsung are not new to scandals. The
    conglomerates have regularly been accused of wielding influence as well
    as dubious dealings between subsidiaries to help controlling families
    evade taxes and transfer wealth to heirs.

    Korean president denies Samsung bribe
    Statement follows call from lawmakers for full investigation
    is facing an investigation over allegations that its controlling
    Samsung Group bribed politicians and officials.A large majority of
    Korean legislators has voted in favour of a special bill that mandates
    an investigation.”The full truth will be uncovered whether a special
    counsel is appointed or not,” Korean president Roh Moo-hyun said on
    Saturday, according to reports in Chosunilbo.”They can investigate
    [Samsung's] slush funds. I did not receive a cash gift from Samsung to
    congratulate me on my election.”However, government sources hinted to
    local reporters that Roh Moo-hyun could still block the investigation
    on the ground that prosecutors are already working on the case.The bill
    also calls for an investigation into allegations by opposition
    politicians that effective control of Samsung could have been
    transferred illegally from group chairman Lee Kun-hee to his
    son.Samsung’s former chief counsel claimed that he is able to name 40
    high ranking judicial officials, politicians and bureaucrats whom he
    alleges have received bribes from the company.Last week, a presidential
    aide claimed that a Samsung executive had tried to give him a $5,000
    gift in 2004. He described it as a “brazen attempt to bribe a
    presidential aide in charge of fighting corruption”.Up to 40 officials
    will spend three months on the investigation, if it is approved, led by
    an independent counsel. The investigation is expected to begin in
    January, according to the Korea Herald.”If an independent counsel is
    brought in at the current juncture it would hurt the companies and
    state agencies in a way that would make it hard for them to regain the
    public’s confidence,” justice minister Chung Soung-jin warned
    legislators.”There could be serious damage done to the national economy
    and the country’s international credit rating.”