The heir of the Samsung group and vice president of Samsung Electronics was arrested early Friday on a charge of bribery, local media reported.
Lee Jae-yong's arrest comes after prosecutors who lead the corruption case which caused the impeachment of South Korean President Park Geun-hye, asked for a second arrest warrant against the tycoon on Feb. 14.
Seoul's central court authorized the arrest Friday morning after "new charges and evidence" were presented, and the 48-year-old tycoon was immediately imprisoned in Uiwang Prison, southwest of Seoul, the Korea Herald reported.
Prosecutors now have 20 days to formalize the detention or release him on probation, Yonhap news agency reported.
South Korea's justice is trying to establish whether the 48-year-old de facto leader of Samsung instructed the conglomerate to give financial support to Choi Soon-sil, nicknamed the "South Korean Female Rasputin," in exchange for the government's backing for a merger between two of the group's subsidiaries.
The same court in Seoul rejected a prior request for his arrest in January for lack of evidence, but prosecutors this week argued that after three weeks of further investigation, they had obtained new evidence and filed new charges.
In addition to bribery, prosecutors accuse Samsung's chief executive of obstruction of justice and the violation of a law on the transfer of assets abroad.
However, the court refused to issue an arrest warrant against Samsung Electronics president Park Sang-jin on Friday, which prosecutors say has allegedly an important part in the case.
Lee and other Samsung personnel admitted having paid about 43 billion won ($37 million) to entities allegedly controlled by the "South Korean Female Rasputin" - so named for her intimacy with President Park Geun-hye - but they deny that it was to get support for the merger process in 2015.
Lee Jae-yong took over the conglomerate in October 2016 after his father, Lee Kun-hee, suffered a heart attack in May 2014 that kept him hospitalized and unable to communicate.
Choi Soon-sil remains in detention since her arrest in October 2016 when she was charged with colluding with Park to create a network of corruption in which the president, members of her government and the main business conglomerates of the country are apparently involved.
The South Korean parliament approved the dismissal of President Park in December. The final decision is now in the hands of the Constitutional Court, which has until June to decide for or against the impeachment process.