Samsung Electronics Vice Chairman Jay Y. Lee, in jail after convictions for bribery and embezzlement, has qualified for parole and is expected to leave prison this Friday, South Korea’s justice ministry said.
“The decision to grant Samsung Electronics Vice Chairman Jay Y. Lee parole was the result of a comprehensive review of various factors such as public sentiment and good behavior during detention,” the ministry said in a statement.
Convicted of bribing a friend of former President Park Geun-hye, Lee, 53, has served 18 months of a revised 30 month sentence. He initially served one year of a five-year sentence from August 2017 which was later suspended. That court decision was then overturned and while the sentence was shortened, he was sent back to jail in January this year.
Support for his parole, both political and amongst the public, has grown amid anxiety that key strategic decisions are not being made at the South Korean tech giant. Samsung and the wider business community also made appeals to the government for his release.
Although the day-to-day running of the world’s biggest memory chip maker and smartphone manufacturer has not been affected by his absence, company sources say decisions on major investment and M&A projects should only be made by Lee.
South Korea’s biggest conglomerates are still owned and controlled by their founding families and there is little precedence for handing over the reins to non-family members even when a senior family member has been jailed. In particular, a decision on the location of a $17 billion U.S. plant to produce advanced logic chips awaits his return.