Lee Jae-yong, the de facto head of South Korea’s giant Samsung group, was sent to jail on Monday. He was found guilty of bribery involving the country’s former president Park Geun-hye, who is already behind bars.
The hearing at the Seoul High Court was a retrial of an earlier case. Initially, in 2017, Lee was sentenced to a five year jail term. He had been found guilty of paying bribes of more than $27 million (KRW29.8 billion) in 2014 to an associate of Park for her help in smoothing the legal and financial processes of transferring power to Lee from his ailing father Lee Kun-hee.
More from Variety
Lee was released from jail the following year after an appeal court decided that the bribes paid were significantly smaller than previously thought, and cut his sentence to a two a half year suspended term.
In 2019, the High Court determined a new, higher, figure and ordered a full new trial.
Lee Jae-yong has been in charge of Samsung since 2014 when his father became seriously ill. Lee Kun-hee died in 2020. His renewed prison time may cause executive and management problems at the company and key subsidiaries, including phone maker Samsung Electronics.
“(Lee) actively provided bribes and implicitly asked the president to use her power to help his smooth succession,” the court said as part of its ruling. “It is very unfortunate that Samsung, the country’s top company and proud global innovator, is repeatedly involved in crimes whenever there is a change in political power.”
Lee’s defense team had proposed mitigating circumstances, arguing that Lee had made large contributions to South Korea’s anti-coronavirus efforts. But anti-corruption activists are likely to welcome the court decision. For decades there have been accusations that the economic dominance of South Korea’s chaebols, or diversified family-owned corporations, is corrupt and anti-competitive. They have long been perceived as having too much influence over government.
Best of Variety