Samsung heir jailed for five years in South Korea for bribery and embezzlement

Billionaire Samsung heir Lee Jae-yong has been sentenced to five years in prison by a court in South Korea for bribery and other crimes which fed public anger and led to the ousting of president Park Geun-hye.

Seoul Central District Court said on Friday that the 49-year-old was guilty of offering bribes to the former leader and her close friend to get government support for efforts to cement his control over the Samsung empire.

A panel of three judges also found him guilty of embezzling Samsung funds, hiding assets overseas, concealing profit from criminal acts and perjury. Prosecutors had sought a 12-year prison term.

Former South Korean President Park Geun-hye, left, arrives for her trial at the Seoul Central District Court in Seoul, South Korea.
Former South Korean President Park Geun-hye, left, arrives for her trial at the Seoul Central District Court in Seoul, South Korea.

The verdict is a stunning downfall for a princeling of South Korea's richest family which controls one of the world's largest consumer electronics companies.

Lee was accused of offering 38 million US dollars (£29.7 million) in bribes to four entities controlled by Choi Soon-sil, a friend of Park, in exchange for government help with a merger that strengthened Lee's control over Samsung at a crucial time.

Samsung has not denied transferring corporate funds. But Lee, vice chairman at Samsung Electronics and the Samsung founder's grandson, claimed innocence during the court hearing. He said he was unaware of the foundations or the donations, which were overseen by other executives.

The closely-watched verdict is the latest convulsion in a political scandal which prompted millions of South Koreans to protest last autumn, culminating in the ousting and arrest of Park as well as the arrests of Choi and Lee, one of South Korea's most powerful tycoons,

Park, who was embroiled in a tumultuous series of scandals, was removed from office in March. She and Choi are both currently on trial.

The ruling in Lee's case can be appealed twice.

Other former Samsung executives charged with Lee were also found guilty.

Choi Gee-sung, a mentor of Lee, and Chang Choong-ki were sentenced to four years in prison. Two other former executives received suspended prison terms.

AP

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