Trial proceedings for Samsung Electronics’ de facto leader Lee Jae-yong and other top executives started Oct. 25, after the Supreme Court in August overturned an appeals court’s decision to hand the Samsung heir a suspended jail term.
“I deeply apologize for causing such concern,” Lee told reporters outside the courthouse in Seoul before the trial started in the morning. However, he kept mum on questions about the possibility of tougher penalties and about how he intended to manage the company after his term as board director at the tech giant ends Oct. 26.
Samsung Electronics Vice Chairman Lee Jae-yong(Ahn Hoon/The Investor)
Lee and the others were convicted of providing financial support to former President Park Geun-hye and her confidante Choi Soon-sil in return for favors concerning the succession of management from Samsung Chairman Lee Kun-hee to the junior Lee. The chairman has been bedridden since 2014 due to a heart attack.
In 2017, the Samsung vice chairman was sentenced to five years in prison for bribery and embezzlement, and served out about a year of that sentence before the appeals court cut his term to 2 1/2 years in 2018 and suspended it for four years.
The appeals court ruled that there was not enough evidence to prove that all Samsung’s support for Park and Choi was linked to the tech giant’s management transition plans.
In August, however, the Supreme Court overturned the ruling, ordering the lower court to review the case. It said the Seoul High Court’s interpretation of what constituted bribes was too narrow. The highest court judged that three horses worth 3.4 billion won ($2.9 million), gifted by Samsung to Choi’s daughter, equestrian Jung Yoo-ra, as well as 1.6 billion won Samsung offered to a youth sports foundation run by Choi and her aides constituted bribes. The lower court, on the other hand, judged that only 3.6 billion won given by Samsung to another sports business effectively run by Choi could be considered bribes.
Lee and the other executives were convicted under a law that deals specifically with corporate corruption and political bribery. Under this law, suspended sentences can be handed down only if the amount embezzled or the value of the bribes does not exceed 5 billion won.
Former Samsung executives Park Sang-jin, Choi Gee-sung and Jang Choong-gi, who were convicted of taking an active part in the bribery, attended the trial as co-defendants.
The next hearings are scheduled for Nov. 22 and Dec. 6.
By Kim Young-won (firstname.lastname@example.org)