Samsung scion gets five years in penitentiary

Samsung’s heir Lee Jae-yong has been sentenced to five years in prison for crimes including offering bribes and perjury.

The billionaire, South Korea’s third-richest man and heir to the sprawling Samsung empire, had been accused of making large donations to foundations run by a close friend and confidante of the deposed South Korean president, Park Geun-hye, in return for political favours, according to media reports.

The court said Lee provided bribes anticipating support from Park, who was still President at the time, according to South Korea’s Yonhap news agency.

Despite claims by his legal team that Lee had little involvement in the day-to-day running of Samsung, the court ruled that he had approved donations to Park’s friend, Choi Soon-sil, in return for securing government support for the contentious merger of two Samsung affiliates that would strengthen his control over the group, reported The Guardian.

Lee’s lawyers said they would appeal. Lee’s case could end up being decided by the country’s Supreme Court, possibly next year.

Four other top Samsung executives were also convicted and received sentences of up to four years.

Lee’s conviction could also have consequences for Park, given that their cases are so closely linked. Park faces a possible life sentence when a ruling in her case is given later this year.

Lee Jae-yong is the eldest child and only son of Lee Kun-hee, Chairman of Samsung, and is widely considered to be his father’s future successor. He is referred to as the “Crown Prince of Samsung” by the South Korean media, and speaks Korean, English and Japanese. Lee is estimated to be worth US$7.9 billion, making him the third wealthiest person in South Korea.

In 2014, Lee was named the world’s 35th most powerful person and the most powerful Korean by Forbes Magazine’s List of The World’s Most Powerful People along with his father.

In January 2017, Lee was accused “of bribery, embezzlement and perjury” by the South Korean prosecutor’s office. Although the arrest warrant was denied by a Seoul court in mid-January, after a month of investigation, he was arrested on the night of 16 February 2017.

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