The stunning downfall the billionaire chief of consumer electronics behemoth Samsung, Jay Y. Lee (Lee Jae-yong), is now complete with the handing down of a five-year-prison sentence by a South Korean court for bribery and other crimes on Friday. Park, Korea’s first female leader, is in trouble herself after being impeached over the influence of her aides.
Samsung is accused of playing a central role in a scandal that has already led to the ouster of South Korea’s President Park Geun-hye.
Found guilty of charges of bribery, perjury, illegal transfer of assets, concealing criminal profits, and embezzlement, .
Former Health and Welfare Minister Moon Hyung-pyo was sentenced to two-and-half years in prison in June for pressuring the NPS to vote for the merger of Samsung C&T and Cheil Industries in 2015.
The court said that Samsung had reluctantly complied with former President Park’s request for bribes, rather than actively giving bribes in exchange for what it wanted.
Local TV broadcasters showed an unnamed Samsung lawyer speaking to reporters after the ruling who said Samsung will “appeal immediately”.
While the ruling casts doubt over Lee’s return to the conglomerate his grandfather founded nearly 80 years ago, the business is doing well, with Samsung Electronics Co. posting record earnings and its shares rising 30 percent this year, outperforming the benchmark Kospi. The courtroom is the same where his father Lee Kun-hee received a suspended jail term for bribery and tax evasion in 2008. Park is facing her own corruption trial, with a ruling expected later this year.
Lee has been Samsung’s de facto leader since his father fell ill, but analysts’ views about how the sentence will affect the company differ.
In his defence, Lee’s lawyers said Samsung was compelled by Park to support the national equestrian team, which happened to include Choi’s daughter, and to make the donations to support the country’s cultural and sports development.
Dubbed the “trial of the century”, Lee’s case has gripped the country for months, channeling widespread discontent over the cozy ties between big business and government.
Lee was immediately taken to the Seoul Detention Center, south of Seoul, where he has already served almost six months. Two of them had their sentences suspended.
Lee, 49, confirmed in his testimony the company gave millions to Choi’s foundations, but he denied Samsung had sought favors in return.
The Samsung’s third-generation leader was bought into custody on February 17 and indicted 11 days later with detention.