After more than four months of court dates and testimonies from 59 witnesses spanning the entire gamut of South Korean professional society, federal prosecutors in South Korea have successfully convicted Samsung heir apparent Lee Jae-yong.
On Friday, a lower court judge sentenced the Samsung Electronics vice chairman to five years in prison for bribing the country’s former president, Park Geun-hye. Lee was also found guilty of embezzlement, hiding assets aboard, concealing criminal profits and perjury.
In the same case, four other Samsung executives were found guilty of a number of the same charges and sentenced to similar jail terms.
While Lee was sentenced to a jail term shorter than the 12 years prosecutors had sought, the guilty verdict is being seen as a landmark moment in the country’s recent move away from its chaebol culture.
The guilty verdict is being seen as a landmark moment in the country’s recent move away from its chaebol culture.
In South Korea, chaebols, multi-national conglomerates that are family-run, dominate almost every facet of the country’s political and economic life. In 2012, Samsung’s revenues accounted for 20 percent of the country’s national GDP.
The scandal involving President Park Guen-hye showed just how corrupt the relationship between politics and business had become.
A spokesperson for Moon Jae-in, South Korea’s current president, said in a statement to The Wall Street Journal that the verdict “will be a chance to break the close relationship between political and business circles that has been a stumbling block to our society’s progress.”
Of course, this saga is far from done. Immediately after the verdict was handed down, Lee’s lawyers said they would appeal it.
“As a legal professional, I cannot possibly accept any part of the lower court’s guilty verdicts, in terms of interpretation of law and finding of facts,” said Wu-cheol Song, Lee’s lead defence attorney, in a statement issued to MobileSyrup. “We will appeal immediately I am confident that the appeals court will definitely find the defendants not guilty on all counts.”
In the meantime, Lee’s guilty verdict does leave Samsung in a precarious position. During the trial, Lee testified that he was rarely involved in decisions involving the broader Samsung empire. However, since his father, Lee Kun-hee, suffered a heart attack, it’s been generally assumed that Jae-yong had been calling the shots at Samsung.
Source: The Wall Street Journal