South Korea prosecutors move to arrest Samsung chief Jay Y. Lee

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South Korea prosecutors move to arrest Samsung chief Jay Y. Lee

South Korea's special prosecutors' office said it will seek a warrant to arrest the head of Samsung Group, the country's biggest conglomerate, as a corruption scandal engulfing president Park Geun-hye escalated on Monday.

Samsung Group chief Jay Y. Lee was questioned for 22 straight hours last week as investigators probe a scandal that has reached the highest levels of power in South Korea.

The arrest warrant must be approved by a court, an official at Seoul central district court said. The date of the hearing has still to be confirmed, but it is likely to be Wednesday, the official said. Samsung did not have an immediate comment.

Prosecutors have been looking into whether Samsung's support for a business and foundations backed by Park's friend, Choi Soon-sil, may have been connected to the National Pension Service's 2015 decision to support a controversial US$8 billion merger of two Samsung Group affiliates.

NPS chairman Moon Hyung-pyo was indicted on charges of abuse of power and giving false testimony on Monday, while Choi appeared before the Constitutional Court, denying wrongdoing.

Park remains in office but has been stripped of her powers while the Constitutional Court decides whether to make her the country's first democratically elected leader to be forced from office.

Moon was arrested in December after acknowledging ordering the world's third-largest pension fund to support the US$8 billion merger in 2015 while he was head of the health ministry, which oversees the NPS.

Samsung has acknowledged providing funds to the three institutions but has repeatedly denied accusations of lobbying to push through the merger.

Choi is accused of colluding with Park to pressure big businesses, including Samsung, to contribute to non-profit foundations backing the president's initiatives.

(Additional reporting by Christine Kim and Joyce Lee; Writing by Nick Macfie; Editing by Simon Cameron-Moore)

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