Samsung heir Lee Jae-yong grilled again in corruption scandal

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Seoul : The de facto leader of the Samsung Group was called into the special prosecutor's office on Saturday for additional questioning over his alleged involvement in a high-profile corruption scandal that has rocked the country for the past several months.

This marks Lee Jae-yong's fourth appearance before the special prosecutor since he was arrested for bribery charges on February 17. He has since been behind bars, Yonhap News Agency reported.

Prosecutors believe Lee gave or promised some 43 billion won ($36 million) worth of bribes to President Park Geun-hye's jailed friend Choi Soon-sil in return for the government's backing of a merger of two Samsung affiliates in 2015.

The merger was seen as critical for the smooth management succession of the group from ailing Samsung Electronics Chairman Lee Kun-hee to his only son, Jae-yong.

Choi, the central figure in the scandal, is accused of using her close ties with Park to strong-arm Samsung and other local conglomerates to offer large "donations" to non-profit foundations, which she allegedly used for personal gain.

The investigation team has been accelerating the probe as its deadline is slated for February 28.

The special counsel has asked Acting President and Prime Minister Hwang Kyo-ahn to extend the period by a month, but it is unclear whether he will approve the request.

Prosecutors plan to indict Lee on bribery charges within this month if the request was not accepted.

Also on Saturday, prosecutors called in Choi to question her over allegations that she amassed illicit wealth and was illegally involved in personal affairs of a private bank in return for favours.