Samsung awaits bribery allegation verdict

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Samsung is awaiting the results of a probe into allegations that it bribed government officials in its home country of South Korea..

The verdict is due on 23 April but could be released as early as the end of this week.

The government established a special investigatory commission after a former senior Samsung legal counsel alleged that the company bribed officials to ward off scrutiny of its corporate structure.

The legal counsel claimed that a secret US$205 million fund was maintained to disburse the handouts to officials, lawmakers and journalists.

The Samsung Group's convoluted structure has multiple cross-holdings in order to keep actual control in the hands of the founding Lee family, observers claim.

Samsung executives have admitted to investigators that they held shares under their own names that actually belonged to Samsung Group chairman Lee Kun-hee, the son of the company's founder.

Lee told local media last week that he would consider removing senior executives, or even resigning, if the commission's verdict went against the company.

Negative findings could result in further investigation of executives, fines or other penalties.

Lee and his executives are likely to be cleared, owing to a lack of evidence to support the allegations, an unnamed source told the Korea Herald today.

The former legal counsel who made the original allegations has already denounced the inquiry as a whitewash, according to the Yonhap News Agency.

Samsung is one of the world's largest producers of a wide range of products and components, including memory chips, LCD screens and mobile phones.

Samsung Electronics is expected to increase its operating profit by 35.8 per cent to US$11.64 billion in 2008, according to forecasts from Greg Roh of Seoul-based Korea Investment and Securities.

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