Samsung’ vice chairman was convicted today on charges related to a bribery scandal that involved South Korea’s president.
Lee Jae-yong, has been leading the company since 2015, after his father, company chairman Lee Kun-hee, suffered a heart attack in 2014 and took an extended leave of absence. He was arrested in February after an investigation uncovered connections to Choi Soon-sil, a spiritual leader who authorities say exerted Svengali-like influence over South Korean president Park Geun-hye, who was removed from office for her own part in the scheme.
The 49-year-old Lee, who is the heir to one of the world’s largest companies, was also found guilty of perjury, embezzlement and of hiding assets outside South Korea following a six-month trial. The development comes two days after Samsung unveiled its latest flagship mobile phone, the Note8.
The court concluded that the billionaire Lee and four other Samsung executives paid $6.4 million in bribes to win governmental approval for the $8 billion merger of two Samsung affiliates in 2015—a complicated deal that included Samsung Electronics, the globe’s biggest mobile phone and chipmaker. Samsung’s empire is responsible for about 20 percent of South Korea’s gross domestic product.
Lee was sentenced to five years in prison and is expected to appeal the conviction. His father, Lee Kun-hee, had himself been convicted for bribery and tax evasion, but was pardoned by then-president Lee Myung-bak, whose own administration faced charges that it had accepted bribes from Samsung.