Samsung chief walks free after prison sentence suspended

Tuesday, 06 Feb, 2018

Samsung Group's de facto leader and vice chairman, Lee Jae-yong (aka, Jay Y. Lee), was sentenced to five years in prison after being found guilty of bribery, embezzlement, capital flight, and perjury charges.

Seoul High Court jailed Lee, who's also known as Jay Y. Lee, for two and a half years, reducing the original term by half.

Coming days ahead of the Olympics in Pyeongchang, the decision to free Jay Y. Lee presents a new headache for President Moon Jae-in, who was elected previous year on an anti-corruption platform in the wake of Park's impeachment.

The heir to the country's largest conglomerate had appealed his sentence, which the court reduced by half to two and a half years on Monday.

Lee was immediately freed from a period of incarceration lasting almost a year.

Lee was the highest-profile business figure to have been embroiled in a graft probe that brought down former Korean President Park Geun-hye and inflamed resentment toward the country's well-connected chaebol. In addition to their business role, they support sports teams and art and culture centers, provide generous advertising budgets to media and even contribute to national events such as Olympiads. Lee was originally sentenced to five years for his corruption scandal involving former President Park Gye-Heun and another party. After a second round of questioning by the South Korean prosecutors, on April 11, 2008, Lee was quoted by reporters as saying, "I am responsible for everything".

Lee is now on probation for four years.

The arrest of Samsung's vice chairman and acting head Lee Jae-yong, son of now incapacitated chairman Lee Kun-hee, is possibly the biggest company scandal in the last, I don't know, four months? "Again, I feel sorry to everyone for not showing my best side".

Lee stood trial on charges that he offered or promised more than 39 million dollars to Park and her longtime confidante Choi Soon-sil. The lower court had said Lee embezzled that amount from Samsung to bribe Choi. "The past one year was precious time for me during which I could look back at myself". But Lee's successful appeal means that Samsung won't have to worry much about all that.

He was sentenced in August along with other former Samsung executives as part of a widespread corruption crackdown of the conglomerate.

Lee added that he must visit his sick father, Lee Kun-hee, the patriarch of the Samsung Group, who in 2014 suffered a severe heart attack.