Lee Jae-yong was accused of giving donations worth 41 billion won ($36 million) to non-profit foundations operated by Choi Soon-sil, a friend of South Korea’s former President Park Geun-hye, in return for political favors.
Prosecutors said the donations were made to Park Geun-hye’s confidante to win government support for a big restructuring of Samsung that would strengthen Lee Jae-yong’s control over Samsung Electronics.
A lawyer for Lee Jae-yonghas said already said they will appeal against the decision.
“We are confident the ruling will be overturned,” lawyer Song Wu-cheol told reporters after the ruling, according to Reuters.
Nevertheless this ruling represents a huge blow to South Korea’s biggest and most well-known business empire. Since the verdict, Samsung shares fell by 1%.
Lee Jae-yong’s conviction raises questions about his leadership of the conglomerate. He has been standing in as chairman since his father, Lee Kun-hee, suffered a heart attack in 2014.
The Samsung scandal contributed to President Park Geun-hye’s eventual impeachment. Park Geun-hye’s friend, Choi Soon-sil, has already been jailed for three years for corruption.
Lee Jae-yong’s trial on a string of corruption charges including bribery and embezzlement has begun in South Korea.
The Samsung vice-president and heir apparent was not present at the preliminary hearing, but his lawyer denied all charges on his behalf.
The case is linked to a massive scandal that led to the impeachment of President Park Geun-hye.
Four other Samsung executives who are also facing trial have also denied wrongdoing.
The trial is expected to go on for several months.
Image source Reuters
Lee Jae-yong, professionally known as Jay Y. Lee, is currently vice-chairman of Samsung Electronics. But since his father, Lee Kun-hee, suffered a heart attack in 2014, he is considered de facto boss of the entire Samsung Group conglomerate.
He is accused of giving donations worth 41 billion won ($36 million) non-profit foundations operated by Choi Soon-sil, a friend of Park Geun-hye.
Prosecutors have alleged this was done to win government support for a big restructuring of Samsung that would help a smooth leadership transition in favor of Lee Jae-yong.
In a December parliamentary hearing, Samsung admitted giving a total of 20.4 billion won to two foundations, but denied seeking favors in return.
Lee Jae-yongalso confirmed the company gave a horse and money to help the equestrian career of Choi Soon-sil’s daughter, Chung Yoo-ra, something he said he now regrets.