SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — Samsung Group created a $215 million slush fund to bribe influential figures, a former company attorney said Monday, adding details to previous allegations of corruption at South Korea's biggest conglomerate.
Samsung immediately denied claims by Kim Yong-chul, who held the company's top legal affairs position from 1997-2004. Samsung said it is considering legal action against Kim.
''It's nothing but a repeat of false, distorted and exaggerated claims,'' Samsung said in a statement.
Kim went public earlier this month with allegations that Samsung raised a slush fund to bribe prosecutors, judges and lawmakers. His claims Monday were the first to detail the amount of the alleged fund and details of how it was created.
A former prosecutor himself, Kim told reporters Monday that Samsung used Samsung Corp. — its trading arm — to create the pool of money through intricate contracts with other group affiliates.
He said family members of Samsung Group Chairman Lee Kun-hee used $65 million from the fund to buy expensive art work.
Kim also disclosed the names of Samsung executives he says managed slush fund with their bank accounts.
The National Assembly approved legislation Friday to open an independent investigation into Kim's allegations, saying a probe already launched by prosecutors is compromised by Kim's claims that some — including the nation's new top prosecutor — took bribes.
The bill goes to President Roh Moo-hyun for approval, but his office has said he may veto it because of the existing probe by state prosecutors.
Prosecutors, meanwhile, have banned eight or nine Samsung officials, including Vice Chairman Lee Hak-soo, from leaving the country, Yonhap news agency reported, citing senior prosecution officials it did not identify. Prosecutors could not be reached for comment late Monday.
Kim said Samsung manipulated evidence and witnesses in a court case over a purported deal that critics say was aimed at transferring corporate control of Samsung from Chairman Lee to his son.
Huge South Korean industrial groups such as Samsung have regularly been accused of wielding influence using dubious dealings between subsidiaries to help controlling families evade taxes and transfer wealth to heirs.
Samsung Group includes dozens of companies, including global technology giant Samsung Electronics Co.
Associated Press Writer Kwang-tae Kim in Seoul contributed to this report.