Samsung Electronics Vice Chairman and heir Lee Jae-yong was sentenced Friday to five years in prison in a Seoul court for bribery and other charges.
Lee, also known as Jay Y. Lee, was convicted of bribing former South Korean President Park Geun-hye and Choi Soon-sil, Park’s confidante and adviser, in return for the government’s help in extending his control over Samsung Group.
“The essence of the case is collusive ties between political power and capital power,” presiding Judge Kim Jin-dong of the Seoul Central District Court said. “As Samsung executives, they had a great deal of negative impact on society and the economy. It is shocking that the disease of political-business collusion between Korea’s most powerful person, the president, and a conglomerate is not a thing of the past but still continuing. It will be hard to recover from this loss of faith.”
Prosecutors sought a 12-year sentence for Lee.
Lee was found guilty of all five charges — bribery, embezzlement, concealing criminal activities, perjury and illegal transfer of assets overseas — and received a sentence regarded as harsh for corporate executives.
Experts believe Friday’s judgment indicates an interest in modifying ties between the wealthy and those in power, Bloomberg reported. South Korean business leaders, including Lee’s father, were convicted for corrupt behavior in the past but received lenient sentences.
Samsung is South Korea’s largest corporation, with electronics, life insurance and cargo ships in its portfolio of businesses and Lee has been its public face.
Four other Samsung executives were tried with Lee for the same crimes, and each was convicted on Friday.
Along with Lee’s sentencing, several former executives were convicted Friday. Former Samsung Corporate Strategy Office chief Choi Gee-sung and former President Chang Choong-ki each received four years in prison and two other executives received suspended prison terms.
By Ed Adamczyk