amsung heir Lee Jae-Yong has been sentenced to five years in prison for bribery, perjury and other crimes.
The Seoul Central District Court on Friday convicted Lee, 49, the vice-chairman of Samsung Electronics, the world’s largest smartphone maker, of offences related to the corruption scandal that brought down ousted president Park Geun-Hye.
Lee Jae-Yong’s penalty could leave the giant firm rudderless for years and hamper its ability to make key investment decisions.
Lee Jae-Yong, the son of Samsung group chairman Lee Kun-Hee, has been groomed all his life to take over the giant conglomerate founded by his grandfather in 1938. It is by far the largest of the chaebols, the family-controlled firms that dominate Asia’s fourth-largest economy, which some South Koreans self-mockingly dub the “Republic of Samsung”. Its turnover is equivalent to a fifth of the national GDP and it has long had close, opaque connections with political authorities.
Prosecutors had demanded a 12-year sentence for Lee Jae-Yong. The vice-chairman of Samsung Electronics stepped from a justice ministry bus handcuffed, bound with white rope around his dark jacket, and carrying an envelope of documents as he walked into Seoul Central District Court.
Lee, 49, was facing multiple charges including bribery, embezzlement and perjury stemming from the scandal, centred on payments and promises by Samsung around $40 million to Park Geun-Hye’s secret confidante Choi Soon-Sil.
Prosecutors had said that the money was in return for policy favours including government support for Lee’s hereditary succession at the group, after his father was left bedridden by a heart attack in 2014.
The defence, however, said that it was pressured by Park Geun-Hye to make the donations under duress — and that Lee was not aware of them and did not approve them.