South Korea approves arrest of Samsung's leader

South Korean President Park Geun-hye speaks during an emergency cabinet meeting at the Presidential Blue House in Seoul

A month after Samsung's vice chairman avoided arrest in connection with a South Korean bribery case, a court has approved a warrant for Jay Y. Lee's arrest.

It is the second time in a month the special prosecutor's office has sought Lee's arrest. In return, it's alleged Lee would receive political favors-in particular the payments were to ensure government backing of a merger of two Samsung affiliates in 2015 that helped Lee inherit corporate control from his father, who was incapacitated. At the parliamentary hearing last December, Lee confirmed he had private meetings with Park and gifted a horse worth 1 billion won ($875,500) to the daughter of Park's confidante Choi Soon-sil.

Samsung and Lee have denied the allegations. Lee is the de facto boss since his father - who was himself twice convicted of financial crimes - was incapacitated by a heart attack two years ago.

"But this will be an important opportunity for Samsung Group to sever ties with the past", he said, referring to links between the government and the country's conglomerates, also known as chaebol.

His arrest immediately placed Samsung Group on "high alert" over the effects of a leadership vacuum, according to local news agency Yonhap, amid the latest developments could have negative consequences for the South Korean economy.

The investigation will continue with prosecution given 20 days to file charges. Lee is now vice-chairman of Samsung Electronics. Park, who has been stripped of her powers, awaits a final decision by the Constitutional Court on whether the impeachment will stand. It also added, "No decision had been made on whether Lee's arrest would be contested or whether bail would be sought", a spokeswoman for Samsung Group said.

Things have not been good for Samsung since previous year as it was tackling the disastrous rollout of its Galaxy Note 7 which were prone to fires.

Lee's defense has consistently been that Samsung paid out donations with no strings attached under pressure from the president. Samsung and Lee have denied wrongdoing in the case.

Geun-hye was impeached by parliament and is waiting to see if the move will be upheld by law courts - if so he will be South Korea's first democratically elected leader to be forced from office.

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