Samsung heir and vice chairman Lee Jae-yong has walked free from jail, after serving only one year of his original sentence.
On Monday an appellate court in Seoul cut Lee’s prescribed sentence from five years to two and a half, suspending the rest of his prison time but expanding probation to four years. He cannot leave South Korea without court approval, but the jail time is a far cry from the 12 years previously sought by the prosecution.
The vice chairman of Samsung Electronics was found guilty of bribery and perjury relating to payments made to South Korea’s former president Park Geun-hye by Samsung via Park’s confidante Choi Soon-sil.
Lee was facing a 12-year sentence after being formally indicted for a string of corruption and embezzlement charges, throwing a bucket of question marks over the company’s future restructuring plans.
Lee had been accused of giving sizeable donations to non-profit foundations operated by Choi – crony of impeached president Park Geun-hye. These donations, allegedly approaching 41 billion won (£29 million), were supposedly delivered in exchange for political support, over a merger between Samsung’s construction arm and affiliate firm Cheil Industries.
Samsung executives have previously admitted to paying around $850,000 (£700,000) for a horse for Choi’s daughter, to help her equestrian career.
Last year, South Korea’s special prosecutor’s office formally pressed the corruption charges against Lee and four other Samsung executives. Following the announcement, three of those executives resigned from the company.
“We apologise for the social controversy and distress we have caused,” Samsung Group executive vice president Lee June told reporters.
At the time, Samsung announced it would be dismantling its corporate strategy office – which has been accused of being a key factor in Samsung’s illicit lobbying. Responsible for investment in new businesses, and built up of around 200 employees, the office has been reproached for being Samsung’s founding family’s control unit. Samsung said its executives and affiliate boards would set their own course moving forwards.