January 19, 2021 09:47
Samsung chief Lee Jae-yong was sentenced to two-and-a-half years behind bars on Monday in a retrial for bribing ex-President Park Geun-hye.
Lee was whisked back to prison immediately after the Seoul High Court found him guilty of paying W8.6 billion in bribes to Park and her confidante Choi Soon-sil and embezzling the money from Samsung coffers (US$1=W1,107).
Lee already served 353 days on remand from Feb. 17, 2017 until a higher court suspended his sentence. Now he has to stay in jail until July 2022 unless he is released early.
The presiding judge said Lee "went along with Park's demands for bribes and provided them while making an illegal request for the president's support in facilitating the succession process."
Park solicited the bribe in return for easing Lee's ascent to the Samsung leadership by means of a merger between two subsidiaries that gave him effective control through the conglomerate's Byzantine holding structure. Park then leaned on the National Pension Service, a major shareholder, to wave the merger through.
The court earlier recommended that Lee overhaul Samsung's governance mechanisms to ensure that it stops using its influence and power to skirt the law. But the judge said the improvements Samsung came up with were not good enough to count as a factor in reducing the sentence.
A lower court sentenced Lee to five years in prison, and an appeals court whittled down the sentence to two-and-a-half years behind bars, suspended for four years. But the Supreme Court in August 2019 concluded that Lee gave Park and Choi W8.6 billion in bribes, W5 billion more than the amount recognized to determine the sentence, and sent the case back to the Seoul High Court.
After his sentence was read out the judge gave Lee a chance to make a statement, but the Samsung chief only bowed his head and said, "I have nothing in particular to say."
Lee's lawyers expressed regret and are considering an appeal.
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