Samsung scion Lee walks free

Violet Powell
February 6, 2018

The Seoul High Court has issued a suspended sentence for Samsung Electronics Vice Chairman Lee Jae-yong who had been charged with giving or promising bribes to former President Park Geun-hye and her longtime friend Choi Soon-sil.

Lee, the vice chairman of Samsung Electronics, was handed a suspended sentence of 2.5 years by the Seoul High Court on Monday after almost a year in detention, South Korea's Yonhap news agency reported. Lee walk free from prison after suspending his sentence for bribery, a stunning reversal that raises questions about the government's ability to reform the nation's most powerful corporations.

Many South Koreans feel the chaebols and the government enjoy too cosy a relationship, and online postings showed that many had been pleased with the initial sentence of five years in jail as it marked a departure from rulings favouring white-collar criminals in South Korea.

"The past year was a precious time for personal reflection", Lee told reporters waiting outside the gates of a detention center in southern Seoul.

BBC News also points out that there are likely to be political implications to this move, because of the link between Lee and the former president.

A 2017 protest called for the punishment of Jay Y Lee and Park Geun-hye. The court also denied Lee's charges on perjury for falsely testifying before the National Assembly at a hearing a year ago.

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In the days leading up to the February 5 verdict, South Korean media published a flurry of articles for and against Lee. His sentence was reduced to 2.5 years today on appeal, and he was allowed to leave on a four-year probation, according to Bloomberg.

Former President Park was impeached last March after the Constitutional Court found her guilty of corruption and permitting the unelected Choi to wield influence.

Jay Y. Lee is the vice chairman of Samsung Group, the eldest child of Lee Kun-hee, chairman of Samsung, and a business man with a net worth of just under $8 billion.

On January 14, 2008, Korean police raided Lee's home and office in an ongoing probe into accusations that Samsung was responsible for a slush fund used to bribe influential prosecutors, judges, and political figures in South Korea. "I will take more caution and do better", Lee said, leaving the court after the verdict. "I will look at all things more carefully from now on".

Lee, who was arrested in February previous year, is the only son of the ailing Samsung Group chairman Lee Kun-hee.

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