Freed Samsung heir can not escape reform spotlight

06 February, 2018, 13:59 | Author: Dustin Murphy
  • Jay Y Lee co-vice chairman of Samsung Electronics speaks to reporters as he leaves the Seoul Detention Center in Uiwang on Monday. Jean Chung  Bloomberg

The court has found Lee guilty of some lesser charges, and he is prohibited from traveling outside South Korea without a judge's approval.

Lee was first arrested last February and he had served close to one year in custody. She was indicted on multiple charges, including bribery, a month after she was sacked as president by the top court in March.

Four former Samsung executives charged alongside Lee will hear their verdicts in the same courtroom. "I will look at all things more carefully from now on". "I will be more careful in the future".

Shares in Samsung Electronics, the flagship of the group, of which Lee is now vice chairman, ended Monday up 0.5% after opening lower.

Another legal duel is likely.

Lee then tried to appeal his sentence that prosecutors asked for and on Monday the high court reduced his sentence by two and a half years.

The court ruled that Lee had paid bribes in anticipation of favours from Park in a watershed for the country's decades-long economic order dominated by powerful, family-run conglomerates.

The ruling will surprise nobody who follows the mild judicial misfortunes of Korea's corporate aristocracy. Now, with the sentence cut in half and suspended, it is unlikely Lee will be held again and can instead return to his vice chairman position at Samsung.

Lee told reporters following his release that the time he spent in jail was useful.


Even so, the contribution that the chaebol structure makes to Korea's economy and society can not be overstated. They were given four-year jail terms by the lower court.

Customarily, the judiciary has taken note.

"Samsung had no agenda for which it needed to make an explicit or implicit request to the former president", the court said.

Monday's result does not mean that impeached and imprisoned Ex-president Park will receive a similarly favorable ruling.

Samsung was accused of paying 43bn won ($36.4m; £30.3m) to two non-profit foundations operated by the former president's friend and confidante Choi Soon-si in exchange for political favors. "A soft punishment like this will further foster collusion between politics and businesses". Receiving bribes can carry a sentence of life in jail. However both were subsequently granted presidential pardons.

However, the heir apparent may still have to deal with the stigma of serving jail time on corruption charges involving the president. Roh Moo-hyun committed suicide when the succeeding administration started investigating his family members for corruption.

The judge said there were no explicit or implicit demands for favours, also accepting Lee's lawyers' argument that Park pressured Lee for the payments. If found guilty of extorting bribes, Park could spend the rest of her life behind bars. The piece dismissed arguments from Samsung and conservative media that Lee's imprisonment would damage South Korea's entire economy as "inflated and farfetched", citing Samsung Electronics' recent record quarterly earnings and stock split. Another circus trial has concluded as most believed it would.

Geoffrey Cain, the author of a forthcoming book on Samsung, said that South Korea was slack light on white-collar crime, particularly by the very wealthy.

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