In a historic judgment in South Korea, Samsung heir and acting chairman Lee Jae-Yong was sentenced to five years in jail. Lee, the South Korea’s third richest man, has apparently been convicted in a case of bribery and cronyism that has previously toppled the country’s president, Park Geun-hye. Apart from Lee, four other Samsung executives have been prosecuted for up to four years of imprisonment.
Samsung heir’s fate had been in troubling waters even since Park was taken down as the President earlier this year. The billionaire has been accused of channelizing huge sum of money as a donation to foundations runs by Choi, a close friend and aide of the ex-President Park Geun-Hye.
In return, Lee was charged with taking political favors from Park. This included government approval of a $8 billion merger of two Samsung affiliates in 2015. In spite of a large number of shareholders down voting this merger, the process went through due to a nod by Samsung’s major shareholder, National Pension Fund; which apparently is a government-run body. The merger had helped Lee cement his hold over the Samsung group. Furthermore, Samsung scion was accused of funding Park Geun-hye’s aide Choi’s daughter’s lavish career in Germany.
Lee-Jae Yong was arrested back in February, despite insisting on the fact that payments were made to Choi’s foundation by Samsung without his knowledge. To strengthen his defense, the Samsung’s billionaire chairman had claimed he wasn’t actively involved in the company’s day-to-day running. His defense, however, went in vain as he finally handed with a fairly long jail term. It was initially speculated, that the prosecutors would be handing him 12 years of imprisonment. Lee’s conviction spells doom for Park, who is expected to receive life time of imprisonment when her case goes under the hammer later this year. Park Geun-hye is the daughter of the former South Korean dictator and was the first female president of the country.
Many in Korea are symbolizing this verdict as a historic judgment. The country has apparently been riddled with series of such corruptions and scandals fueled by senior politicians and family-run conglomerates called chaebol. Previously both politicians and chaebol leaders were handed with light charges in similar cases. In fact, the convicted Samsung heir’s father was himself involved in a massive case of tax fraud in early 2009. He was, however, let out lightly by the judiciary in light of possible political pressure from higher authorities.
The historic verdict may finally bring in a change in Samsung’s leadership. Lee Jae-Yong absence has led to the formation of a vacuum in the company’s top administration. Samsung is yet to release a public statement in reaction to the court ruling.