Samsung head faces probe, denies slush fund

Special prosecutors investigating claims of corruption at Samsung Group took their investigation to the very top. They questioned its chairman for nearly 11 hours about allegations that the iconic conglomerate used a slush fund to bribe influential legal figures, an Associated Press report said.

Lee Kun-hee, who has run South Korea's biggest industrial group for two decades, appeared for questioning at the office of the independent counsel examining the claims.

Surrounded by a throng of reporters, the 66-year-old Lee, moving slowly and speaking softly, stopped briefly to answer questions, saying he had nothing to do with directing the alleged fund. 'I didn't,' said Lee, who also denied ordering any bribes.

The independent counsel, established by parliament and approved by South Korea's previous president, is focused on allegations raised by Samsung's former top lawyer.

Kim Yong-chul claimed in November that Samsung had US$200 million (€127.6 million) in a slush fund, which was used regularly to bribe prosecutors and judges.

He also said that Lee's wife used some of the money to purchase expensive works of art from abroad.

Samsung vociferously denied the allegations when they were raised.

Lee, whose father established the conglomerate 70 years ago, is widely credited with turning its flagship Samsung Electronics into a top global brand during his tenure by transforming the corporate culture into one focused on quality.