Samsung’s Lee sentenced to 30 months for bribery

Lee Jae-Yong - Samsung 16.9.jpg

Lee Jae-Yong, vice chairman of Samsung Electronics, has been sentenced to a 30-month (two and a half year) prison term by a High Court in South Korea.

Jae-Yong has been charged with bribery and embezzlement, specifically for using corporate funds to pay an 8.7 billion won ($7.8 million) bribe to Park Geun-hye, the former South Korean president and her friend Choi Soon-sil, in 2015. 

According to the court’s ruling, Judge Jeong Joon-young said, Jae-Yong "actively provided bribes and implicitly asked the president to use her power to help his smooth succession" as the head of Samsung.

Jae-Yong took control of the company in 2014 when his father Lee Kun-hee was hospitalised due to a heart attack, before passing away in 2020.

Adding: "It is very unfortunate that Samsung, the country's top company and proud global innovator, is repeatedly involved in crimes whenever there is a change in political power."

Specifically, the bribes were said to be given under the understanding that the National Pension Service, a public pension fund in South Korea, would ensure Jae-Yong’s smooth sucession at Samsung by supporting the merger of Cheil Industries and Samsung C&T, two Samsung subsidiaries.

Jae-Yong legal team were quick to deflect these claims, instead pointing these accusations in the direction of Geun-hye, saying: "The nature of this case is the former president's abuse of power violating corporate freedom and property rights. Given that nature, the court's decision is regrettable."

However, the court did recognise Samsung’s attempts to improve its corporate governance by forming a compliance committee back in early 2019, but it was not enough to reduce Jae-Yong’s sentence. Jae-Yong has already served 18 months in detention which is expected to count toward his sentence leaving only 18 months left on his sentence.

Jae-Yong’s team is considering appealing to the Supreme Court once it has fully reviewed the decision.