File Image: Lee Jae-yong, vice chairman of Samsung Electronics Co., arrives for his trial at Seoul Central District Court in Seoul, South Korea, Friday, Aug. 25, 2017. (Chung Sung-Jun/Pool Photo via AP)

SEOUL - The New York Times and Tech Crunch reported that Lee Jae-yong, was arrested on Friday on bribery charges, a dramatic turn in South Korea’s decades-old struggle to end collusive ties between the government and powerful family-controlled conglomerates.

Mr. Lee, Samsung’s vice chairman, was taken to a jail outside Seoul, soon after a judge at the Seoul Central District Court issued an arrest warrant. Lee is accused of paying bribes to an advisor of President Park Geun-hye in exchange for political favors.

 The New York Times reported that he is alleged to have given a total of $36 million to Park’s secret advisor in order to win government support for a merger between two Samsung subsidiaries. Park, Korea’s first female leader, is in trouble herself after being impeached over the influence of her aides. 

Lee is thus far the highest ranking business executive to be caught up in the saga.

Samsung, whose market capitalisation accounts for one-fourth of the value of all listed companies in South Korea, is a potent national symbol of power, wealth and technological innovation.

In a statement, Samsung said, “We will do our best to ensure that the truth is revealed in the court proceedings.” 

Mr. Lee is the first head corporation to be arrested on corruption charges. Other charges against him include embezzlement, illegal transfer of property abroad and committing perjury during a parliamentary hearing. 

Mr. Lee, who also goes by the name Jay Y. Lee in the West, had survived the prosecutor’s first attempt to arrest him last month when a court in Seoul ruled that there was not enough evidence of bribery. However, Investigators have since collected what they called more incriminating evidence and asked the court for a warrant for arrest. 

“Given the newly presented criminal charges and the additional evidence collected, the legal grounds and need for arresting him are recognized,” the judge, Han Jeong-seok, said when he issued the arrest warrant.

The prosecutor must indict Mr. Lee within 20 days.

- BUSINESS REPORT ONLINE