Samsung heir guilty of bribery
Gets 5 yrs for involvement in presidential scandal
The heir to the Samsung empire was convicted of bribery and other offences Friday and jailed for five years in connection with the scandal that brought down former South Korean president Park Geun-hye.
Lee Jae-yong’s penalty could leave the vast conglomerate, which includes the world’s biggest smartphone maker, rudderless and hamper its ability to make key investment decisions for years.
The vice-chairman of Samsung Electronics, 49, arrived at Seoul Central District Court on a justice ministry bus handcuffed.
Lee was found guilty of bribery, perjury and other charges related to payments Samsung made to Park’s secret confidante Choi Soon-sil.
In total 8.9 billion won ($7.9 million) was paid in bribes in return for favors including government support for Lee’s hereditary succession at the group after his father was left bedridden by a heart attack in 2014, the court found.
Lee had denied the charges, but presiding judge Kim Jin-dong said, “He offered bribes in response to strong demands by the president.”
Four other top Samsung executives were also convicted, with two jailed for up to four years, and the other pair given suspended terms.
Supporters demonstrating outside the court broke down in tears while Lee’s lawyers said they would appeal “immediately,” with lead attorney Song Wu-cheol saying he “cannot possibly accept” the court’s “interpretation of law and finding of facts.”
Samsung is by far the biggest of the chaebols, as the family-controlled conglomerates that dominate Asia’s fourth-largest economy are known, with its revenues equivalent to about one-fifth of the country’s GDP.
But while the economy is still growing, frustrations have mounted over inequality and the demonstrators who mounted giant candlelit protests against Park last year also targeted Lee and other chaebol chiefs.
The verdict could add impetus to new President Moon Jae-in’s campaign pledges of chaebol reform.
In a rare statement on a court case, the presidential Blue House said, “We hope that the ruling will serve to encourage the cutting of collusive ties between politicians and businesses, which have hampered social progress.”
The court said Park was aware that Lee wanted state approval for a controversial merger of two Samsung units in 2015, seen as a key step to ensuring his accession.