Sam­sung heir in silent mode dur­ing ap­peal

The Star Late Edition - - BUSINE SSREPORT - Joyce Lee

THE HEIR TO South Korea’s Sam­sung Group, con­victed of brib­ing the coun­try’s for­mer pres­i­dent, ap­peared in a packed court yes­ter­day for the first day of ar­gu­ments in the ap­peal of his five-year jail term for cor­rup­tion.

The 49-year-old Jay Y Lee was con­victed by a lower court in Au­gust of brib­ing Park Geun-hye, who was dis­missed as pres­i­dent in March.

The court de­cided the bribe helped Lee strengthen his con­trol of the crown jewel in the con­glom­er­ate Sam­sung Elec­tron­ics, one of the world’s big­gest tech­nol­ogy com­pa­nies.

The ap­pel­late court hear­ing the ap­peal is likely to try to rule on the case by next Fe­bru­ary, le­gal ex­perts said. Which­ever side loses could take the case to the Supreme Court, the fi­nal court of ap­peal in South Korea.

Lee’s pres­ence marked his first pub­lic ap­pear­ance since the Au­gust rul­ing. He did not speak dur­ing the pro­ceed­ings other than giv­ing his birth date and ad­dress.

The lower court in Au­gust had ruled that while Lee never asked for Park’s help di­rectly, the fact that a 2015 merger of two Sam­sung af­fil­i­ates did help ce­ment Lee’s con­trol over Sam­sung Elec­tron­ics “im­plied” he was ask­ing for the pres­i­dent’s help to strengthen his con­trol of the firm.

Lee, sit­ting mostly ex­pres­sion­less in a dark suit with­out tie, lis­tened to hours-long Pow­erPoint pre­sen­ta­tions by both sides ar­gu­ing over the lower court’s logic that Lee’s ac­tions “im­plied” solic­i­ta­tion for help from Park by pro­vid­ing fi­nan­cial sup­port for Park’s close friend and con­fi­dante Choi Soon-sil.

Yes­ter­day, the de­fence strongly chal­lenged that logic.

“In or­der for im­plied solic­i­ta­tion to ex­ist, there needed to have been a level of word­less un­der­stand­ing be­tween Lee and the for­mer pres­i­dent that tran­scended speak­ing,” said Lee In-jae, Jay Y Lee’s lead coun­sel. Lee’s pres­ence marked his first pub­lic ap­pear­ance since the rul­ing. He did not speak dur­ing the pro­ceed­ings.

The pros­e­cu­tion, which has lodged a cross-ap­peal against the lower court rul­ing that found Lee in­no­cent on some charges, said the court’s de­ci­sion to not ac­knowl­edge ex­plicit solic­i­ta­tion for Park’s help from Sam­sung de­spite the ev­i­dence found “did not make sense”.

The de­fence, which spent much of its time dur­ing the ini­tial trial re­fut­ing the pros­e­cu­tion’s in­di­vid­ual charges, said it would fo­cus on a few key ar­gu­ments in the ap­peal – in­clud­ing whether there was in fact an “or­di­nary type of bribery” as de­fined un­der South Korean law, which says only civil ser­vants come un­der the statute. Park’s friend Choi was not a civil ser­vant.

The lower court found that Sam­sung’s fi­nan­cial sup­port of 7.2 bil­lion won (R85.5 mil­lion) to spon­sor the eques­trian ca­reer of Choi’s daugh­ter con­sti­tuted an or­di­nary type of bribery, as “it can be con­sid­ered the same as she (Park) her­self re­ceiv­ing it.”

The de­fence is ex­pected to chal­lenge this by say­ing the pros­e­cu­tion has not proved col­lu­sion be­tween Park and Choi.

The ap­peal hear­ing con­tin­ues on Oc­to­ber 19. – Reuters

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