Samsung Electronics vice chairman Lee Jae-yong has been freed after his sentence was suspended by the appellate court on Monday.
The heir-apparent was sentenced to two-and-a-half years in prison with four years of probation at sentencing at the appeal trials that began in October.
The heir-apparent was sentenced to five years in prison in August last year for allegedly orchestrating bribes paid to a friend of former President Park Geun-hye -- who has since been impeached as jailed -- through foundations and an equestrian sports team, in order to gain government supports for a merger that increased his control over Samsung Electronics indirectly.
Prosecutors demanded a sentence of 12 years while lawyers for the Samsung boss said he was a victim of extortion by Park.
The judge of the appellate court didn't accept a crucial memo made by a former aide to Park as evidence. The memo, a key piece of evidence for the first trial, had written proof of meetings between Lee and the former president.
The bribery amount -- which prosecutors said was over $30 million and of which the judge of the district court accepted $7 million -- was mostly rejected in the appellate court.
The judge said there were no explicit or implicit demands for favours, also accepting Lee's lawyers' argument that Park pressured Lee for the payments.
Lee was also found not guilty in overseas tax evasion -- money paid to a foundation in Germany -- which was a key reason for the reduction of the sentence.
The appeal trial began in October last year following appeals from both prosecutors and Lee's defence.
Kwon Oh-hyun, vice chairman and CEO of Samsung Electronics, announced that he was stepping down, saying there needs to be new, younger leadership due to an unprecedented crisis caused by Lee's absence.
Lee has been the de facto leader of Samsung since his father and chairman Lee Kun-hee was hospitalized following a heart attack in 2014.
PREVIOUS AND RELATED COVERAGE
Samsung to replace all CEOs in long-awaited shake-up
Samsung Electronics has overhauled its top leadership line-up after three years of minimal changes, reflecting the sense of urgency surrounding the conglomerate.
Samsung boss begins appeal trial in Seoul
Imprisoned Samsung boss has been summoned to court for the start of the appeals trial for the bribery case involving the former president.
Samsung heir sentenced to five years in jail
South Korean court finds billionaire Samsung heir Lee Jae-yong guilty of bribery and other crimes.
Prosecutors seek 12-year sentence for Samsung boss in bribery trial
Special prosecutors seek 12-year sentence for Samsung Electronics vice chairman Lee Jae-yong in the South Korean bribery scandal.
Samsung chief denies bribery charges in 'trial of the century'
Jay Lee denies all charges laid at his feet as part of a corruption case that has engulfed Samsung.