The case appears to be linked to the influence trading scandal that has already caused the impeachment of the country’s president Park Geun-hye. Park is accused of allowing a mysterious close friend Choi Soon-sil have too much influence over her and of government.
Samsung is in turn accused of giving $3.1 million to non-profit organizations controlled by Choi, possibly as a means to win approval for a merger between construction firm Samsung C&T and related company Cheil Industries.
Lee is vice chairman of Samsung Electronics, but is seen as the heir apparent at the family-controlled giant. He was held at the prosecutor’s office in Seoul for more than 20 hours of questioning. He was released without charge.
Samsung last year suffered a major setback when it was forced to withdraw its flagship Note 7 smart phone from the market after several units spontaneously caught fire. An investigation that concluded recently, announced that the batteries were at fault.
Despite that setback the company appears to have weathered that storm, with revenues and profits buoyed by global demand for the silicon chips it manufactures. In mid-afternoon trade on Monday Samsung Electronics shares were down 1.87% at 1,838,000 per unit.