Monday, March 1, 2021

Samsung chief won’t appeal 2.5-year jail term, says lawyer

His lawyer says he 'will humbly accept the ruling and has decided not to appeal'.

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The de facto chief of South Korea’s Samsung business empire will “humbly accept” the court ruling that sentenced him to 2.5 years in prison for corruption and will not appeal, his lawyer said Monday.

Lee Jae-yong, vice-chairman of Samsung Electronics, the world’s biggest smartphone and memory chip maker, was found guilty of bribery and embezzlement in connection with the scandal that brought down former president Park Geun-hye.

The Seoul Central District Court jailed him in a retrial last week, the latest step in a long-running legal process that has hung over Samsung for years.

But the decision not to appeal could mean that Samsung is looking to draw a line under the issue: with time already served, Lee will be eligible for parole as soon as September – as long as prosecutors do not successfully appeal for a longer sentence.

“Vice-chairman Lee will humbly accept the ruling and has decided not to appeal,” his lawyer Lee In-jae said in a statement.

The 52-year-old was first jailed for five years in 2017, after Park’s ouster.

He walked free the following year when an appeals court dismissed most of his bribery convictions and gave him a suspended sentence, but the Supreme Court later ordered Lee to face a retrial.

Given Lee has served around a year in prison he is due for release in July 2022, even without parole, a presidential pardon or a commutation.

Samsung is by far the biggest of the family-controlled conglomerates, or chaebols, that dominate business in the world’s 12th-largest economy.

Its overall turnover is equivalent to a fifth of the national gross domestic product and it is crucial to South Korea’s economic health.

Experts have warned a prolonged leadership vacuum could hamper its decision-making on future large-scale investments of the kind that have been key to its rise.

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