August 25, 2017 // 11:23 a.m.
Lee Jae-yong, Samsung vice chair and heir to the company's controlling family, has been sentenced to five years imprisonment in the dramatic conclusion to a major bribery scandal that has rocked South Korea's largest company.
Also known under the Anglicised name Jay Y. Lee, Lee Jae-yong was arrested in February this year following an appeal to the Seoul Central District Court by special counsel investigating alleged bribery and wrongdoing by South Korean President Park Geun-hye. In its appeal, the counsel claimed that Lee offered bribes to the tune of £29 million to Choi Soon-sil, close friend and confidant of President Park, to secure the government's backing of a merger between two Samsung subsidiaries which company chair Lee Kun-hee used to transfer control of the company to his son Jae-yong - a move which completed an unbroken line of familial succession traced back to founder Lee Byung-chul in 1969.
Lee denied the charges - which included bribery, embezzlement, perjury, concealment of criminal proceeds, and illicit transfer of assets abroad - but has been found guilty by South Korea's courts and sentenced to five years imprisonment, lower than the 12-year sentence requested by the prosecution. Naturally, Lee will appeal the case - which could drag the matter out into 2018.
Reporting on the case, the Guardian points out that the sentence breaks the traditional but unwritten '3-5 law' in which leaders of the nation's family-run conglomerates - known as chaebol - are typically sentenced to three years maximum followed by a five-year probationary period. 'If Lee receives a heavy sentence,' Seoul National University professor of economics Park Sangin told the paper, 'it can be seen as the shattering of the "too-big-to-jail" trend of the past.'
Samsung has not issued a statement, but Lee's lawyer Song Woo-cheo has pledged to appeal.