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Samsung heir jailed over graft

China Daily | Updated: 2017-08-26 07:19

Lee Jae-yong, Samsung Group heir, leaves after his verdict trial at the Seoul Central District Court in Seoul, South Korea August 25, 2017. Lee was handed down 5 years jail sentence while prosecutors sought a 12-year in prison. [Photo/Agencies]

Seoul court says Lee paid bribes to seek favor from ex-leader

SEOUL - The heir to the Samsung empire was convicted of bribery and other offenses on Friday and jailed for five years in connection with the scandal that brought down South Korean president Park Geun-hye.

Lee Jae-yong's penalty could leave the vast conglomerate, which includes the world's biggest smartphone maker, rudderless and hamper its ability to make key investment decisions for years.

The vice-chairman of Samsung Electronics, 49, arrived at Seoul Central District Court on a justice ministry bus handcuffed, bound with white rope around his jacket, and carrying an envelope of documents.

Lee was found guilty of bribery, perjury and other charges related to payments Samsung made to Park's secret confidante Choi Soon-sil.

In total, $7.9 million was paid in bribes in return for favors including government support for Lee's hereditary succession as leader of Samsung after his father was left bedridden by a heart attack in 2014, the court found.

Lee had denied the charges, with the defense saying that he was not aware of the payments and did not approve them.

But presiding judge Kim Jin-dong said: "He offered bribes in response to strong demands by the president."

His lawyer said on Friday they will appeal the court's decision and said he was confident the ruling would be overturned.

Some of Lee's supporters demonstrating outside the court broke down in tears.

Samsung is by far the biggest of the chaebols, as South Korea's family-controlled conglomerates that dominate Asia's fourth-largest economy are known, with its revenues equivalent to around one-fifth of the country's GDP.

But while the economy is still growing, social and economic frustrations have mounted over the benefits not being equally shared and the demonstrators who mounted giant candlelit protests against Park last year also targeted Lee and other chaebol chiefs.

The verdict could add impetus to new President Moon Jae-in's efforts to fulfill his campaign pledges of chaebol reform.

The family-owned conglomerates have long had murky connections with political authorities in the country, and past trials of their leaders have often ended with light or suspended sentences, with courts citing their contributions to the economy.

Although Lee's penalty is the longest against a sitting chaebol controller, "considering the fact that Lee was found guilty on all the five charges, five years in prison is the minimum sentence the court was able to come up with", said Chung Sun-sup, the head of corporate analysis firm chaebul.com.

Four other top Samsung executives were also convicted, with two jailed for up to four years, and the other pair given suspended terms.

Afp - Ap - Xinhua

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