South Korean court says Samsung's Jay Y Lee had given bribes to win former president's support. He was convicted of bribery, embezzlement, capital flight and perjury.

Samsung Group heir Lee Jae-yong (Jay Y Lee) arrives at Seoul Central District Court to hear the bribery scandal verdict on August 25, 2017, in Seoul, South Korea.
Samsung Group heir Lee Jae-yong (Jay Y Lee) arrives at Seoul Central District Court to hear the bribery scandal verdict on August 25, 2017, in Seoul, South Korea. (Reuters)

A South Korean court jailed on Friday Samsung Group leader Jay Y Lee for five years. 

He was convicted of bribery in anticipation of favours from then-president Park Geun-hye, embezzlement, capital flight and perjury. 

A Seoul Central District Court judge delivering its ruling on bribery and other charges after a six-month trial in a scandal that triggered Park's impeachment and ouster, also found Lee guilty of hiding assets abroad and perjury.

Lee denied wrongdoing.    

TRT World spoke with Joseph Kim, who is following the story from  Seoul.

Lee, the 49-year-old heir to one of the world's biggest corporate empires, has been held since February on charges that he bribed Park to help secure control of a conglomerate that owns Samsung Electronics. 

The company is the world's leading smartphone and chip maker, and has interests ranging from drugs and home appliances to insurance and hotels.

Lee will appeal decision

One of his lawyers, Song Wu-cheol, said Lee would appeal the lower court ruling.

"The entire verdict is unacceptable," Song said, adding that he was confident his client's innocence would be affirmed by a higher court.

Under South Korean law, sentences of more than three years cannot be suspended. The five year-sentence is one of the longest prison terms given to a South Korean business leader.

The Seoul Central District Court said Samsung's financial support of entities backed by Park's close friend, Choi Soon-sil, constituted bribery, including $6.4 million (7.2 billion won) in sponsoring the equestrian career of Choi's daughter.

In return for the contributions, prosecutors say, Samsung sought government support for a controversial 2015 merger of two of its affiliates, which helped Lee tighten his control of the conglomerate.

His lawyers had argued that the merger was done on business merits but the court did not accept that.

Samsung Electronics did not have any immediate comment. 

Case affects Park

Park, who was forced from office in disgrace, is facing her own corruption trial, with a ruling expected later this year.

Prosecutors have argued that Park and Lee took part in the same act of bribery so Lee's conviction would appear ominous for Park.

Hundreds of diehard Park supporters rallied outside the court earlier in the day to demand Lee's acquittal.    

"The trials of former president Park Geun-hye and Samsung Jay Y Lee go hand in hand," said Son Tong-sok, 63, who heads a conservative group.

Son said prosecutors had built their cases on circumstantial evidence and unsubstantiated claims reported in the media.

"Arresting these two innocent people are violations of human rights." he said. 

Conglomerate scandals

Samsung, founded in 1938 by Lee's grandfather, is a household name in South Korea and a symbol of the country's dramatic rise from poverty following the 1950-53 Korean War.

But over the years, it has also come to epitomize the cosy ties between politicians and powerful family-controlled business groups – or chaebols – which have been implicated in a series of corruption scandals.

South Koreans, who once applauded the chaebols for catapulting the country into a global economic power, now criticize them for holding back the economy and squeezing smaller businesses.

South Korea's new president, Moon Jae-in, who replaced Park after a May 9 election, has pledged to rein in the chaebols, empower minority shareholders and end the practice of pardoning corporate tycoons convicted of white-collar crime.

Source: TRTWorld and agencies