South Korean court sentences Samsung heir Lee Jae-yong to five years for corruption
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The heir to the Samsung empire, which includes the world's biggest smartphone maker, was sentenced Friday to five years in prison for bribery and other offences in connection with the scandal that brought down South Korean president Park Geun-Hye.
The Seoul Central District Court said Friday that Lee Jae-yong – known professionally in the West as Jay Y. Lee – was guilty of offering bribes to the former president and her close friend to get government support for efforts to cement his control over the Samsung empire.
A panel of three judges also found him guilty of embezzling Samsung funds, hiding assets overseas, concealing profit from criminal acts and perjury. Prosecutors had sought a 12-year prison term.
The verdict is a stunning downfall for a princeling of South Korea's richest family that controls one of the world's largest consumer electronics companies.
Lee, 49, was accused of offering $38 million in bribes to four entities controlled by Choi Soon-sil, a friend of ousted president Park, in exchange for government help with a merger that strengthened Lee's control over Samsung at a crucial time.
Samsung has not denied transferring corporate funds. But Lee, vice chairman at Samsung Electronics and the Samsung founder's grandson, claimed innocence during the court hearing. He said he was unaware of the foundations or the donations, which were overseen by other executives.
The closely-watched verdict is the latest convulsion in a political scandal that prompted millions of South Koreans to protest last fall, culminating in the ouster and arrest of Park as well as the arrests of Choi and Lee, one of South Korea's most powerful tycoons,
Park, who was embroiled in a tumultuous series of scandals, was removed from office in March. She and Choi are both currently on trial.
The ruling in Lee's case can be appealed twice.
Other former Samsung executives charged with Lee were also found guilty.
Choi Gee-sung, a mentor of Lee, and Chang Choong-ki were sentenced to four years in prison. Two other former executives received suspended prison terms.
(FRANCE 24 with AP)