Sam­sung heir guilty of bribery

Gets 5 yrs for in­volve­ment in pres­i­den­tial scan­dal

Global Times - Weekend - - WORLD -

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.

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