Published: Tue, February 06, 2018
Hi-Tech | By Wayne Curry

Samsung heir walks free after appeals court quashes bribery charges

Samsung heir walks free after appeals court quashes bribery charges

005930) heir, Lee Jae-yong, has walked free from his suspended jail sentence following the scandal of bribery and corruption.

President Park was dismissed in March after being impeached in a case that brought scrutiny to the cozy ties between South Korea's chaebols - big family-owned corporate groups - and its political leaders.

His sentencing confirmed what had always been suspected: links between the nation's most successful and renowned company and the country's government.

Lee had faced five charges, including embezzlement and hiding assets overseas.

Lee was arrested previous year on charges that he paid bribes to a confidante of South Korea's former president in exchange for political favours.

In a surprise decision, the Seoul High Court softened the original ruling against Lee, rejecting most of the bribery charges levelled against him by prosecutors who had been seeking a 12-year jail term. Lee's lawyer, Lee In-jae, said the defence would appeal to the Supreme Court to try to overturn the convictions.

Speaking in front of cameras in Seoul, Lee said his time behind bars had been a "really valuable" period of self-reflection. After all, Park's trial could reveal further evidence of her dealings with Samsung and with Lee in particular.

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But the three-judge bench of the Seoul Central District Court found Lee guilty of paying bribes totaling $6.4 million, which he embezzled from the company, and then lied about it. That's what happened to his father, Samsung Group Chairman Lee Kun-hee, who was twice convicted of corruption - and twice pardoned. He has spent close to a year in detention and has been released for the next four years on probation. Commentators said today's decision was in keeping with past lenient legal treatment of their leaders.

Lee, wearing a dark suit and white shirt and looking noticeably worn, did not show any emotion when the ruling was announced.

The funds were allegedly in exchange for help toward the merger of Samsung affiliates and other purposes.

It isn't clear when Lee will return to Samsung in a formal role.

Many South Koreans were expecting a tough stance from the appeals court and took to social media and online news portals to vent their anger at the ruling and the judge who issued the verdict. The Suwon, South Korea-based company took the opportunity to unveil a 50-to-1 stock split, which sent its shares surging.

But the appeals court said Lee did not seek any help from Park.

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