SEOUL, March 26 (Reuters) - A South Korean independent panel created to review prosecution probes has decided to recommend that prosecutors cease investigating Samsung Electronics vice chairman Jay Y. Lee over an allegation of unlawful use of a prescription sedative, a prosecution official said on Friday.
Prosecutors have been investigating Lee after a separate organization, the Anti-Corruption and Civil Rights Commission, asked prosecutors last year to investigate Lee after receiving a tip in January 2020 that he had been routinely administered propofol, an anaesthetic, at a clinic, Yonhap news agency reported on Thursday.
Lee has denied wrongdoing through his lawyer. His counsel said in a statement on March 11 that all medical procedures he has undergone have been lawful. His counsel, who was not named in the statement, could not be reached for comment on Friday.
While the independent review panel can offer recommendations, prosecutors are not legally bound to follow its findings. The officials who had been investigating the case will take the panel’s view into consideration, a spokesman for the Seoul Central District Prosecutor’s Office said on Friday.
Yonhap said that 14 experts from fields including legal circles and academia on the independent review panel voted on the recommendation for prosecutors to stop investigating Lee. The recommendation is expected to be made shortly.
Representatives of the review panel were not available for comment.
The Anti-Corruption and Civil Rights Commission declined comment, as it is legally bound not to comment on tips it receives.
Samsung declined to comment on the case.
The independent review panel was set up as part of prosecution reform measures taken since 2018 to bolster neutrality by allowing outside experts to review the investigation and prosecution process.
Lee, 52, has been jailed at the Seoul Detention Center since January for a 2-1/2 year sentence for bribery and other charges. He was hospitalised earlier this month for surgery for a burst appendix, Seoul media reported.
He is heir to his father, Samsung Electronics chairman Lee Kun-hee, who died in October. (Reporting by Joyce Lee Editing by Frances Kerry)