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S Korea pension chief arrested in Samsung-linked corruption probe

 AFP |  2017-01-01 23:08:13.0  |  Seoul

South Korea’s former health minister was arrested under a court order on Saturday in a widening probe to determine whether impeached President Park Geun-Hye took bribes from businesses including Samsung. Moon Hyung-Pyo, now head of the National Pension Service (NPS), admitted to pressuring the state-run fund to back a controversial merger of two Samsung units when he served as health minister from December 2013 to August 2015.

The Seoul Central District Court issued a warrant for his arrest after reviewing evidence from a special prosecutor. Moon was taken to emergency detention Wednesday on allegations that he pressured the fund to vote in favour of the merger between Cheil Industries and Samsung C&T.

The acquisition was seen as a key step in a smooth father-to-son power transfer to Lee Jae-Yong, scion of Samsung’s founding family. Critics said it undervalued Samsung C&T stock but NPS — the world’s third largest public pension fund and a major Samsung shareholder — backed the deal, allegedly incurring hundreds of millions of dollars in losses for NPS subscribers.

Investigators plan to question Lee next month to determine whether he told Samsung Electronics executives to funnel millions of dollars into dubious foundations and companies controlled by Park’s friend Choi Soon-Sil in return for NPS’ backing. Lee said at a parliamentary hearing this month that he was not aware of the money transfers. 

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