The de facto leader of consumer electronics manufacturer Samsung has been sent back to jail for his role in bribing the now-former President of South Korea.
Lee Jae-yong, 52, vice-chairman of Samsung Electronics, was originally jailed after he was found guilty of bribery and embezzlement in 2017.
Mr Lee “actively provided bribes and implicitly asked the (then-South Korean President Park Geun-hye) to use her power to help his smooth succession” at the head of Samsung, the Seoul Central District Court said in its verdict.
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“It is very unfortunate that Samsung, the country’s top company and proud global innovator, is repeatedly involved in crimes whenever there is a change in political power,” the verdict added.
Mr Lee was effectively the head of Samsung since his father Lee Kun-hee became bedridden after a heart attack in 2014.
The older Mr Lee, who died in October last year, previously took over from his own father Lee Byun-chul, who founded the company in 1938.
The younger Mr Lee won’t be handing over top management roles to his children however, after making a public apology in May over company misconduct, when he promised they would not succeed him.
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Lee Kun-hee was also convicted of bribing former President Roh Tae-woo in 1996 but didn’t spend any time in jail.
His son has not been so lucky.
After originally being sentenced to five years in 2017, Mr Lee left jail the next year after an appeals court dismissed most of his bribery convictions and gave him a suspended sentence, but the Supreme Court later ordered he be retried.
On Monday, the court handed down its decision, sentencing him to 30 months in prison before he was immediately taken into custody.
The scandal highlighted connections between big business and politics in South Korea, with the ousted president and her friend accused of taking bribes from corporate higher-ups in exchange for preferential treatment.
In the past, leaders of South Korean conglomerates convicted of crimes such as tax evasion or bribery have been given presidential pardons in recognition of their economic role.
The Federation of Korean Industries said in a statement: “Considering Samsung’s share of the Korean economy and its status as a global company, the ruling is feared to have a negative impact on the overall Korean economy.”
Mr Lee, it added, “has been helping to sustain the Korean economy by spearheading bold investment and job creation amid the economic crisis over the coronavirus”.
— with AFP