Vice-Chairman of Samsung Co., Jay Y. Lee, has been sentenced to 9 years in jail. The company is the largest electronics company in South Korea, which is one of the reasons why the prosecutors have warranted the sentence time.
The sentence was announced on December 30, 2020; however, the final hearing has been scheduled for January 18, 2021, for the final decision to be announced.
Samsung Electronics is the most powerful conglomerate of South Korea and also the largest contributor to their economy. They have helped the country grow massively, however, the government and prosecutors have made sure not to let that get in the way of making a just decision.
According to a closing argument from the prosecutors:
“There’s no denying that it has made a lot of positive impact on our society. But just because there’s been an economic contribution, there should be no hesitation in legal enforcement based on the rule of law.”
Jay Y. Lee is currently under two trials.
- The first being the Samsung bribery case,
- and the other in which he has been accused of stock-price manipulation and accounting fraud.
Both the cases are separate and are being dealt by the prosecutors individually. The bribery case hit the courts in 2017, which also led to the downfall of Samsung Co.’s former President Park Guen-Hye. However, the stock-price manipulation and accounting fraud trial began in October 2020.
Lee has been imprisoned in 2017 for bribing Park and Choi Soon-sil – a close associate of Park Guen-Hye. He was sentenced to 5 years in prison but was released in 2018, when his sentence was instead reduced to 1-year.
Under the bribery case, it has been found that Lee made the bribes in order to take control of Samsung, which was at the time being run by his father Lee Kun-hee. As a bribe, he offered horses and financial contributions through an intermediary to a personal source of Park, in order to win the government’s support for the deal. However, this process of continuous bribes didn’t only lead to the imprisonment of Jay but also Park for 25 years.
The sentence which was previously halved in 2018, has now been increased by the prosecutors by a minimum time of 5-years in prison. Anything above 5-years (a sentence of 9-years has been discussed in the trials) can be expected due to the increase in the amount bribed.
The 52-year old billionaire is accused of giving gifts to various parties in order for him to maintain his control and power over the world’s largest smartphone manufacturer.
Jay Y. Lee has been asked by the judges of the high court to implement practices at Samsung which assure that no illegal activities take place again. They have asked Lee to ensure credibility amongst the Samsung group. As an answer to this, Lee responded that he will try his best to stay away from all forms of illegal practices and doesn’t want the company to be inherited by his children.
“Even though it’s tough and difficult, I’ll walk on the right path. I promise that I’ll create a company with the highest level of transparency and morality. I will make sure, again, my children will not be mentioned in relation to the succession of the company. Samsung will never get into controversy over these related matters.” – Jay Y. Lee
Lee’s father Lee-Kun has also been accused of various offenses such as a tax conviction in 2008, which led to a suspended sentence. However, Jay Y. Lee has faced the longest sentence ever as he has been guilty of all five charges i.e. bribery, embezzlement, hiding assets overseas and committing perjury before parliament. This is the reason why five years of sentence is the minimum time declared by the Judges.
There are two other former executives of the Samsung Group – Jang Choong-ki and Park Sang-jin – that the prosecutors have demanded a seven-year jail term for. However, Lee, on the other hand, has passed an official statement of apology at his trial.
“I stood here with a regretful heart. I want to make a new Samsung that is appropriate to the dignity of the country and be a good son to my respectable father” – Jay Y. Lee said in his final statement at his hearing on Wednesday.
As per the current situation, the verdict is still not finalized and experts predict that the government might step back from Lee’s case. The final decision of Lee’s fate lies in the hearing and trial scheduled for January 18, 2020.