Heir to Samsung Throne Sentenced to 5 Years in Corruption Case that Brought Down South Korea’s President

A demonstrator wears a mask with a photograph of Lee Jae-yong, co-vice chairman of Samsung Electronics, during a protest outside the Seoul Central District Court on Aug. 25. (Seongjoon Cho/Bloomberg)
A demonstrator wears a mask with a photograph of Lee Jae-yong, co-vice chairman of Samsung Electronics, during a protest outside the Seoul Central District Court on Aug. 25. (Seongjoon Cho/Bloomberg)

Lee Jae-yong, the scion of the Samsung dynasty and the most powerful tycoon in South Korea, was found guilty Friday for his part in a sensational corruption scandal that had already brought down a president.

Lee, who is 49 and had been in detention since February, was sentenced to five years in prison — far less than the 12 years special prosecutors had asked for but still an astounding turn of events even after the turmoil of the last year.

The country is no stranger to political corruption scandals, but this one has riveted South Koreans, who, increasingly, are demanding accountability from political and business leaders, regardless of the impact it might have on the national economy. The conglomerate is so powerful in South Korea that the country is sometimes called “The Republic of Samsung.”

Lee was found guilty on all five charges: bribery, embezzlement, illegally transferring assets overseas, concealing criminal proceeds and perjury. All the charges related to “Choi-gate,” the corruption scandal that led to the impeachment of Park Geun-hye as president in March.

“At the heart of this case is the collusion between political power and economic power,” the presiding judge, Lee Jin-dong, said.  “This is a case in which Samsung executives . . . provided a large amount of money in bribes to the president, who has the final say in economic policy, in anticipation of help with the succession process,” the judge said, according to reporters in the courtroom.

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SOURCE:  Anna Fifield
The Washington Post