The South Korean justice ministry said on Monday it will release Samsung heir Lee Jae Yong on parole on Friday, just ahead of the country’s Aug 15 Liberation Day.
Also known as Jay Y Lee, he was serving a two-and-a-half-year sentence for bribery, and was granted parole at a review meeting on Monday, reported The Wall Street Journal, citing South Korea’s justice ministry.
“The decision to grant Samsung Electronics vice chairman Jay Y Lee parole was the result of a comprehensive review of various factors such as public sentiment and his attitude during detention,” Justice Minister Park Beom Kye said in a statement on Monday.
Park added that economic concerns are rising amid the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, and that was also a factor in the ministry’s decision.
Lee has met the requirements for parole eligibility by completing 60% of his prison sentence, and business groups have expressed hope that he can get back to work helping steer the nation’s major conglomerate.
Lee was Samsung’s vice chairman and had acted as the company’s de facto head since his father, Lee Kun Hee, suffered a heart attack in 2014.
He faced up to 12 years in prison after being charged with bribery in 2017. The case was part of a corruption scandal that led to the impeachment of former South Korean president Park Geun Hye.
Lee was originally sentenced to five years in prison in 2017, but that was later reduced to two and a half years before being suspended. The country’s Supreme Court ordered a retrial, and Lee was sentenced to 30 months in prison, which started in January.
The verdict against Lee was thought likely to deal a severe blow to the reputation of the nation’s largest business group but Samsung seems to have weathered the storm well, say analysts.
Lee is also facing a separate trial related to a controversial 2015 merger and alleged accounting fraud tied to his succession bid at the electronics giant.
South Korea’s biggest conglomerates are generally still owned and controlled by their founding families, and there is little appetite for handing over the reins to non-family members even when a senior family member has been jailed.