South Korean investigators raided the office of the world’s third-largest pension fund, the National Pension Service (NPS), on Wednesday in their probe of a corruption scandal that led to parliament’s recent vote to impeach the country’s president. A special prosecutor investigating the scandal is looking into NPS’s decision last year to approve the $8 billion merger of two Samsung Group affiliates, an official from the special prosecutor’s office told Reuters via telephone.
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The NPS was a major shareholder of both affiliates. The merger was criticised for strengthening the founder family’s control of the group at the expense of other shareholders. Investigators are examining whether Samsung’s support of a business and foundations backed by President Park Geun-hye’s long-time friend Choi Soon-sil may have been connected to NPS’ support of the deal, the prosecution official said on Wednesday.
The official declined to be named as he was not authorised to speak to media. Choi is in custody and on trial for fraud and abuse of power in the influence-peddling scandal. On Wednesday, prosecutors also raided an office at the Ministry of Health and Welfare, which administers the NPS.
A Ministry of Health and Welfare spokeswoman confirmed that special prosecution officials were at the ministry’s pension department and “looking at a broad range of material.” NPS could not be reached immediately for comment. A Samsung Group spokesman could not immediately be reached for comment on Wednesday.
NPS’ backing of last year’s merger of Samsung C&T Corp and Cheil Industries was seen as crucial to the deal winning shareholder approval. Parliament voted on Dec. 9 to impeach Park, a decision that must be confirmed or overturned by the Constitutional Court. Last month, a different team of prosecutors raided offices of Samsung and the NPS.