Published: Sat, August 26, 2017
Money | By Charlene Sutton

Jailing of Samsung chief sparks protests in South Korea

Jailing of Samsung chief sparks protests in South Korea

Lee Jae-yong, Vice Chairman of Samsung Electronics, was found guilty of offering bribes to South Korea's former president, Park Geun-hye.

Lee Jae-yong was also found guilty by a panel of three judges of embezzlement, hiding assets overseas, concealing profits from criminal acts and perjury.

Prosecutors had been seeking a 12-year prison sentence for Lee, who denied any wrongdoing.

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Lee Jae-Yong's paid a total of $7.9 million United States dollars in return for favors including government support for Lee's hereditary succession.

Song Wu-cheol, one of Lee's defence lawyers, described the verdict as "unacceptable" and said that the lower court ruling would be appealed.

Lee, 49, was found guilty of giving Park bribes for equestrian training for the daughter of long-time Park confidante and ally Choi Soon-sil.

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Prosecutors had said that the money was in return for policy favours including government support for Lee's hereditary succession at the group, after his father was left bedridden by a heart attack in 2014. The case is expected to be appealed all the way up to the Supreme Court, likely next year.

It seems unlikely that Lee will get the same government favors as his father, Lee Kun-hee, Samsung's chairman, who was convicted two times of bribery and tax evasion but who served no jail time after being pardoned twice. Regardless of the outcome the verdict is a blow to Samsung, which is one of South Korea's largest companies, with share prices falling by one per cent.

The New York Times reported that Lee also falsely testified at a parliamentary hearing on the controversy, with the other former executives also getting prison terms or suspended sentences. Four other Samsung executives were implicated in the conspiracy. The massive corruption scandal also led to the ouster of former South Korean President Park Guen-hye. Further, the move expanded his power over Samsung Electronics, the division in charge of its phones, TVs and other devices, which is considered the chaebol's top earner.

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The chaebols, which are family-run conglomerates that wield huge economic power in South Korea, have always been viewed as responsible for the country escaping poverty in the wake of the Korean War.

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