Jay Y. Lee the heir to South Korea’s largest conglomerate, was sentenced on Monday to two-and-a-half years in prison. The vice chairman of Samsung Electronics had been convicted of bribery and was first jailed in 2017 but the terms of the sentence were reduced and suspended on appeal.
Lee, 52, was convicted in 2017 for bribing the confidante of former president Park Geun-hye in a corruption scandal that led to the impeachment and jailing of the country’s first female leader. Lee served a year in prison but was released after his original five-year term was cut in half on appeal and suspended. In 2019, the Supreme Court sent the case back to the Seoul High Court for a retrial that resulted in the sentence announced on Monday.
Samsung is accused of having contributed about 30 billion won (about $28 million) in bribes to Park’s confidante in exchange for the government’s backing of a controversial merger of two Samsung affiliates in 2015. Samsung won approval for the merger of affiliates Cheil Industries and Samsung C&T, which strengthened Lee’s control of the conglomerate.
The sentence will sideline Lee from running the world’s largest smartphone and memory chip maker at a critical time for the tech giant as it copes with the coronavirus pandemic and geopolitical tensions between the China and the U.S.