Samsung's Lee sentenced to 30 months in prison in corruption retrial

20 Janvier, 2021, 01:56 | Auteur: Auguste Feret
  • Lee Jae Yong arrives at the High Court in Seoul where he was sentenced to two and a half years behind bars in the retrial of a bribery case

Lee, meanwhile, was found guilty of bribery and other corruption charges in 2017, and sentenced to five years in prison at the time.

Samsung Electronics Vice Chairman Lee Jae-yong was taken to prison on Monday after being sentenced to two-and-half years in jail - a landmark in the life of South Korea's richest man and its most important company. In August 2019, however, South Korea's Supreme Court overturned the appeals court, ruling that it was too lenient, and ordered the case to be retried.

Lee helms the Samsung group in his capacity as vice president of Samsung Electronics, one of the world's largest makers of computer chips and smartphones.

On the prison term of less than three years, which was far lower than the nine years sought by prosecutors, the court said it took into consideration Lee's situation where he might have found it very hard to reject demands for bribes from the president. Lee still faces a second prosecution related to succession. He denied wrongdoing, the sentence was reduced and suspended on appeal, and he was released after serving a year. After the court session, Lee was transferred to Seoul Detention Center in Uiwang, Gyeonggi. Since he spent almost a year in detention, he has one year and six months left to complete his term. The former Samsung chairman deceased in October 2020, leaving behind the top position vacant and inheritance of $21 billion. An independent counsel probe into the presidential scandal started in December 2016 following Park's impeachment by the National Assembly earlier that month.

Lee was sentenced in 2017 for offering millions of dollars in bribes to Park and her longtime friend Choi Soon-sil. Lee was freed immediately after that ruling. With the Supreme Court's determination, the amount of bribes given by Lee totals around 8.6 billion won.

Samsung could be without its top decision-maker for up to 18 months after Lee Jae-Yong's sentencing by a court in Seoul today
Samsung could be without its top decision-maker for up to 18 months after Lee Jae-Yong's sentencing by a court in Seoul today

Lee's jail term will at least temporarily side-line him from decision making at the conglomerate. According to a law on punishment for special economic crimes, any bribe 5 billion won or over warrants a prison sentence of three years or more. Choi was sentenced to 18 years in prison on charges including abuse of power, coercion and bribery in June. If he is convicted again, his prison term will be even longer.

The company's shares fell nearly 3% on Monday, the day of the verdict against Lee, but regained most of that on Tuesday. A promise to scrap the conglomerate's anti-union policy was also made.

One Lee lawyer, Lee In-Jae, described the ruling as "regrettable".

Lee, the son of recently-deceased Samsung head and long-time International Olympic Committee member Lee Kun-Hee, had previously spent a year in prison and is hence only expected to serve a further 18 months.

"A rocky road is ahead for Samsung with Lee in jail", said Chung Sun-sup, chief executive officer of Seoul-based corporate-analysis firm Chaebul.com. That trial is proceeding at the Seoul Central District Court.

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