A South Korean court early Thursday rejected a request from prosecutors to detain the heir apparent of Samsung Group, the country's biggest family-controlled conglomerate, despite alleged charges of bribery, perjury and embezzlement.
Samsung Group, the parent company of Samsung Electronics, became ensnared in the "Choi-gate" corruption probe facing Park a few months ago.
A senior prosecutor in South Korea is seeking an arrest warrant for Samsung's vice chairman over claims he bribed the country's president in a corruption scandal which has rocked the nation.
Park has been suspended from office, but continues to live in the presidential Blue House.
Lee Kyu-chul, spokesman of the independent counsel team, said a face-to-face interrogation of Park could be conducted as late as the beginning of February, Xinhua news agency reported.
Lee, 48, faces allegations of giving bribes worth 43 billion won ($36 million) to Choi and the president in hopes of winning government backing for a contentious Samsung merger in 2015. Park was already impeached by the government, and the Constitutional Court has to decide whether to uphold or overturn the vote.
According to The New York Times, the merger is an important part of Lee's attempts to inherit control of Samsung from his father, who is now incapacitated following a heart attack in 2014.
Ms. Choi was indicted in November on charges of coercing 53 big businesses, including Samsung, to contribute $69 million to her two foundations.
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South Korean prosecutors say the company agreed to pay more than $18 million to a company Choi set up to finance equestrian training of her daughter in Germany.
The Lee family directly own only five percent of Samsung shares but control the group via a complex web of cross-shareholdings between group subsidiaries.
The merger helped Lee increase his control over Samsung Electronics.
Since Lee Jae-yong's father suffered a heart attack in May 2014, the company has been trying to accelerate a leadership succession from the 72-year-old father to his son.
"Samsung should learn a hard lesson from this whole crisis that it should reinvent itself as a truly global, transparent entity", said Kim, "whether Lee Jae-Yong goes to jail or not". "We believe the court will make a wise decision".
Samsung objected to the allegation that the merger was not aboveboard.
In exchange for the kickbacks, President Park is suspected of ordering the former health and welfare minister, who is now in custody, to pressure the National Pension Service (NPS) into voting for the Samsung merger. Mr. Moon acknowledged that he pressured NPS officials to support the Samsung merger, special prosecutors said last month.