Lee Jae-yong, the chairman of Samsung Electronics and heir to the family-run conglomerate, has been sentenced to two-and-a-half years in prison in connection with the scandal that brought down former South Korean President Park Geun-hye.
The 52-year-old Lee was immediately taken into custody Monday after the Seoul High Court found him guilty of bribing then-President Park Geun-hye and a close confidante.
Lee gave $7 million in return for Park’s support for a merger of two Samsung affiliates, Samsung C&T and Cheil Industries, that would give him increasing control of the country’s largest conglomerate and smooth the transition from his father, Lee Kun-hee, who died in October.
The younger Lee was initially convicted in 2017 and sentenced to five years in prison in connection with the bribery scheme, but he only served a year before an appeals court suspended his sentence. South Korea’s Supreme Court eventually ordered a retrial on the original charges.
Lee is also accused of inflating the value of Samsung Biologics, which is a subsidiary of Cheil Industries.
His lawyer told reporters after the verdict that the case essentially came down to “the former president's abuse of power violating corporate freedom and property rights.”
The Supreme Court last week upheld former President Park’s 20-year prison sentence on corruption charges. She was impeached by lawmakers in 2016 after revelations emerged about the bribery affair, which triggered weeks of massive protests demanding her dismissal.
Her impeachment and removal from office was upheld the next year by the Constitutional Court. She was also separately indicted on charges of illegally taking funds from three former intelligence chiefs that were siphoned from the agency’s budget.
Park has also been convicted in a separate case of illegally meddling in her party’s nomination process ahead of the 2016 parliamentary elections, which added an additional two-year prison sentence, meaning she could remain in prison until 2039.