Samsung Scion Jay Y. Lee Jailed for Five Years on Bribery Charges

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Samsung Scion Jay Y. Lee Jailed for Five Years on Bribery Charges
Highlights
  • Samsung heir Lee Jae-Yong was sentenced to five years in prison
  • He was charged for bribery, embezzlement, perjury, and other crimes
  • Lee, who denied wrongdoing, has been in detention since February

A South Korean court jailed Samsung Group leader and Samsung Electronics Vice Chairman Jay Y. Lee for five years on Friday. The court ruled had Lee paid bribes in anticipation of favours from then president Park Geun-hye.

The Seoul Central District Court was delivering its verdict on charges against Lee, 49, ranging from bribery to perjury in a scandal that led to the ouster in March of the then president, Park Geun-hye. The six-month trial also found Lee, vice chairman of Samsung Electronics - the world's largest smartphone maker - guilty of hiding assets abroad and perjury.

Lee, the 49-year-old heir to one of the world's biggest corporate empires, has been held since February on charges that he bribed Park to help secure control of a conglomerate that owns Samsung Electronics, the world's leading smartphone and chip maker, and has interests ranging from drugs and home appliances to insurance and hotels.

Samsung Electronics did not have any immediate comment. During the trial, Samsung acknowledged it offered to donate about KRW 43 billion ($38 million) to entities backed by Park's close friend, Choi Soon-sil, including sponsoring the equestrian career of Choi's daughter.

In return for the contributions, prosecutors say, Samsung sought government support for a controversial 2015 merger of two of its affiliates, which helped tighten Lee's control over the conglomerate. Lee denied wrongdoing, and his lawyers say the 2015 merger was done on business merits.

Park is facing her own corruption trial, with a ruling expected later this year. Prosecutors have argued that Park and Lee two took part in the same act of bribery.

Samsung, founded in 1938 by Lee's grandfather, is a household name in South Korea and a symbol of the country's dramatic rise from poverty following the 1950-53 Korean War.

But over the years, it has also come to epitomise the cosy ties between politicians and powerful family-controlled business groups - or chaebols - which have been implicated in a series of corruption scandals.

South Koreans, who once applauded the chaebols for catapulting the country into a global economic power, now criticize them for holding back the economy and squeezing smaller businesses.

South Korea's new president, Moon Jae-in, who replaced the Park after a May 9 election, has pledged to rein in the chaebols, empower minority shareholders and end the practice of pardoning corporate tycoons convicted of white-collar crime.

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