Samsung Electronics Co. Leader, Lee Jae-Yong, was found guilty and convicted in the Seoul Central District Court of all five charges he was formally indicted with. His sentence was the mandatory minimum of five years.
The court ruled that Lee and the four former Samsung leaders were guilty of paying bribes totaling $7.8 million between former President Park and Choi Soon-sil. Other charges Lee faced were charges of hiding assets abroad, embezzlement and perjury
“The essence of this case is the corrupt alliance between government and big business,” Kim Jin-dong, the presiding judge of the three-judge panel, said. “The people’s disappointment seemed irreparable because the corrupt alliance between the president and the conglomerate existed not just in the past but in our present reality.”
Lee, who has been held since February without bail, is heir to one of the most powerful families and corporate business in South Korea. He was known to have been colluding with former President Park Gye-Heun and her friend Choi Soon-sil in paying favors to able to successfully secure his leadership position in Samsung.
Choi was the owner of many other companies that Lee had funneled money into which he listed as being donations and other types of payments, that ended up going to Park, who in returned gave political favors. This scandal ultimately led to Lee’s succession as leader of Samsung group. Park was impeached back in May for her involvement.
“This case is a matter of Lee Jae-yong and Samsung Group executives, who had been steadily preparing for Lee’s succession ... bribing the president,” Seoul Central District Court Judge Kim Jin-dong said.
“Samsung executives were steadily preparing for Lee’s succession and paid large bribes to the president, who had the ultimate authority over Korea’s economic policy, with an anticipation of her help for the management control succession scheme,” Kim said. “They also embezzled money from Samsung Electronics, illegally transferred assets abroad and concealed criminal profits.”
Lee denied any involvement and any wrongdoing in the scandal and his lawyer said that he would appeal the conviction.
“The entire guilty verdict is unacceptable,” Lee’s lawyer said, adding he was confident his Lee’s innocence would be affirmed by a higher court. The case is expected to be appealed all the way up to the Supreme Court, likely next year, according to Reuters.
Kim was originally facing 12 years for his crimes, but the judge insisted on the mandatory minimum sentence due to the fact that Lee had not directly and actively demand the President for favors and to take the bribes.
This is not the first time his family has run into corruption within the business. His grandfather, founder of Samsung, was investigated for a smuggling case, but never prosecuted. His father was prosecuted for the same charges of bribery and tax evasions, who later received a presidential pardon.
Lee is the first member of the family to have been convicted and jailed for his corruption crimes. This five year sentence is among the longest sentences given to a business leader. Current South Korean President, Moon Jae-In, said that there will be more pardons.
“We hope the ruling will serve as an opportunity to end the longstanding history of corrupt alliances between politicians and business, which has been an obstacle for our society’s advancement,” said Yoon Young-chan, senior presidential secretary for public relations at the Moon Jae-in Blue House.