Friday, March 5, 2021

Samsung heir jailed over bribery scandal involving ex-president

It's the latest twist in a convoluted legal controversy that has dogged Samsung for years.

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Samsung vice-chairman Lee Jae-yong has gone back to prison, casting the leadership of the massive South Korean tech company in doubt.

The Seoul High Court sentenced him to 30 months behind bars on Monday after finding him guilty of embezzlement, bribery and concealment of criminal proceeds worth about 8.6 billion won (US$8 million). He was taken into custody following the verdict.

According to the court verdict, Lee “actively provided bribes and implicitly asked the president of South Korea to use her power to help his smooth succession” as the head of Samsung.

It’s the latest twist in a convoluted legal controversy that has dogged Samsung for years, says Reuters.

Lee, also known as Jay Y Lee, was caught up in a massive influence-peddling scandal that brought down the government of former president Park Geun-hye, who was also jailed for bribery and corruption.

Lee was found guilty of bribery and other corruption charges in 2017 and sentenced to five years in prison but walked free after less than a year when an appeals court threw out some of the charges and suspended his sentence.

This latest sentence is the result of a retrial ordered by the country’s Supreme Court.

Lee has been the de facto head of Samsung Electronics since 2014, assuming leadership of the company when his father Lee Kun-hee was hospitalised following a heart attack in 2014. He died last year.

The ruling will have ramifications for the future of Jay Y’s role at the tech behemoth.

Lee’s jail term will at least temporarily sideline him from decision-making at the international conglomerate.

Experts say the sentence could create a leadership vacuum and hamper Samsung’s decision-making.

“It’s really a huge blow and a big crisis for Samsung,” Kim Dae-jong, a business professor at Sejong University, told reporters.

News of the sentence sent Samsung electronics shares plunging more than 4% lower before they began to regain some ground.

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