Sam­sung scion’s bribery re­view starts this week

The Korea Times - - FRONT PAGE - By Lee Suh-yoon [email protected]­re­atimes.co.kr

The re­view of an ap­peals court ver­dict in Sam­sung scion Lee Jae-yong’s bribery case in­volv­ing im­peached former Pres­i­dent Park Geun-hye will start Fri­day.

Lee spent a year be­hind bars for pro­vid­ing bil­lions of won in bribes to ex-Pres­i­dent Park and her con­fi­dante Choi Soon-sil. He was freed on a sus­pended sen­tence in Fe­bru­ary last year, af­ter the ap­peals court con­cluded there was in­suf­fi­cient ev­i­dence to show the money was bribes aimed at se­cur­ing Cheong Wa Dae’s sup­port for Lee tak­ing over the top po­si­tion at Sam­sung.

How­ever, the Supreme Court over­turned the de­ci­sion Aug. 29 and or­dered the ap­peals court to re­view the case. In its rul­ing, it said 3.4 bil­lion won ($2.8 mil­lion) that Sam­sung used to buy three race horses for Choi’s daugh­ter could be con­sid­ered a bribe. It also said the lower court was wrong not to view the money Sam­sung gave to the eques­trian ac­tiv­i­ties and sports foun­da­tions that Choi con­trolled as bribes. The ap­peals court at the time said there was no “ex­plic­itly de­tailed agree­ment” between the par­ties re­gard­ing “fa­vors be­ing traded.”

The Supreme Court rul­ing opens the pos­si­bil­ity of the Sam­sung heir be­ing put be­hind bars again. Un­less there is new ev­i­dence in Lee’s fa­vor, the new ap­peal judges re­view­ing Lee’s case at Seoul High Court must adopt the Supreme Court’s stance and in­ter­pre­ta­tion of the given facts in reach­ing a “new ver­dict.”

A sus­pended sen­tence is un­likely be­cause the ex­tra bribes rec­og­nized by the Supreme Court raise the sum from 3.6 bil­lion to 8.6 bil­lion won. By law, those who pay a bribe of 5 bil­lion won or more must be jailed for at least five years.

Judge Jung Joon-young of Seoul High Court will hold the first hear­ing on Lee and four other Sam­sung ex­ec­u­tives Fri­day morn­ing. Lee’s lawyers will likely ar­gue the money given by Sam­sung was the re­sult of ex­tor­tion by Pres­i­dent Park and her al­lies rather than a will­ing con­tri­bu­tion that could be per­ceived as a bribe.

Lee has been de-facto head of the global smart­phone and chip man­u­fac­turer since his fa­ther, Sam­sung group Chair­man Lee Kun-hee, fell ill in 2014. To help the ju­nior Lee in­herit man­age­ment con­trol, shady book­keep­ing and con­tro­ver­sial merg­ers oc­curred between sub­sidiaries to shake up the share­hold­ing struc­ture within the group.

Sam­sung ac­counts for a fifth of the coun­try’s ex­ports.

Pres­i­dent Park and Choi’s cases, are also be­ing re­viewed over for pro­ce­dural faults in lower court rul­ings.

The lat­est rul­ing sums up the po­lit­i­cal up­heaval the coun­try has been go­ing through since the mass can­dlelit protests of fall 2016. The wide­spread con­dem­na­tion of col­lu­sion and the in­flu­ence-ped­dling scan­dal between Cheong Wa Dae and chae­bol ousted con­ser­va­tive leader Park and ush­ered in a govern­ment that vowed to rein in the pow­er­ful con­glom­er­ates.

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