A two and ½ jail punishment awaits Samsung heir Lee Jae-yong as a retrial of a bribery case involving ex-President Park Geun-hye was given a ruling on Monday. After less than three years of his freedom, he was put back into jail again.
The prison term was decided by the Seoul High Court for bribing Park and Choi Soon-il, the former president’s friend. Lee, who sits as vice chairman of Samsung Electronics Co. was believed to bribe the two to attain government’s support in a seamless transfer of power at Samsung.
“He actively and readily offered bribes to Park upon her demand for them, and engaged in improper activities in soliciting, although implicitly, Park’s support in the transfer of managerial power (at Samsung),” according to the court’s verdict.
Former president Park was removed from presidency through impeachment for corruption and abuse of power. The highest court last week has maintained Park’s 20-year prison term over bribery and power abuse charges. Choi, on the other hand, must serve an 18-year jail term over abuse of power charges, coercion and bribery last June.
According to the appeals court, the smartphone giant’s compliance committee lacks the effectiveness to be counted as among the sentencing reasons advantageous to Lee.
The compliance committee was established by Samsung last February in a bid to scrutinize the company’s adherence with laws and ethics. It was launched by the conglomerate after the court last October 2019 has ruled Lee to formulate steps for avoiding ethical blunders at the conglomerate.
The court said that the conglomerate’s established committee appears to have restricted and unclear power to tidy up possible company irregularities.
Samsung has banked its hopes on the compliance committee acting to the favor of Lee in his legal struggles and probably attaining a suspended sentence.
The court also said that it considered Lee’s state where he might struggle to turn down bribes from the president in terms of applying the jail term of less than three years. The prosecutor sought for his jail term to be nine years.
Lee, upon hearing the court’s ruling, was left staring into the air for a few moments. When the judges made their exit, Lee opened a conversation with his lawyer.
The court’s ruling on Monday left his supporters and other company leaders with shattered hopes. His supporters have requested the court for mercy toward Lee whose contribution in easing economic struggles brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic was notable.
Some of the Samsung scion’s supporters complained against the ruling at the courtroom while in tears.
“The nature of the case is the former president’s abuse of power, which infringed the business’ freedom and property rights,” exclaimed Lee In-jae, one of the Samsung heir’s lawyers. “Given that, the ruling is very regrettable.”
Anti-corruption activists, meanwhile, accepted the ruling warmly. They were known for calling the court to impose a solid eagerness to face the relations between the industry and politics head-on. They said that the comfortable ties between the two are the root of South Korea’s poor corporate governance.