In the latest update to South Korea’s Samsung saga, Lee Jae-yong, the de facto head of the Samsung Electronics Inc. mega-conglomerate, will face judgment Friday following a trial focused on Mr. Lee’s alleged efforts to bribe South Korea’s former president, Park Geun-hye. Mr. Lee assumed leadership of Samsung in 2014 after his father, Lee Kun-hee, suffered a heart attack; however, he has been detained since his February 2017 arrest.
Lee is charged with allegedly offering bribes to then-president Park and several of her close friends in an effort to strengthen his control over Samsung and get government offices to approve key components of the company’s transition from father to son. As we’ve previously noted, the alleged bribes included the purchase—with Samsung funds—of Vladimir the dressage horse, a gift for the daughter of Park’s friend Choi Soon-sil. Prosecutors have alleged that Choi was Park’s accomplice in the alleged favor-giving.
In addition to bribery, the allegations against Lee include a charge for hiding assets abroad, a crime that alone can carry a 10-year sentence. South Korean prosecutors seek a total 12-year sentence for Mr. Lee, who, under relevant laws, would not be eligible for parole until having served at least a third of his sentence.
Mr. Lee’s sentencing will close another chapter of a lengthy corruption scandal that has made headlines for its Rasputin-reminiscent cult leader, million-protester marches, and former president Park’s eventual impeachment.
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