Samsung boss' retrial for bribery charges begins

Samsung heir-apparent JY Lee made his first court appearance in nearly two years and faces possibly a heavier sentence than before.
Written by Cho Mu-Hyun, Contributing Writer

The retrial of Samsung Group's de facto leader for bribery charges started in South Korea on Friday.

Samsung Electronics vice chairman, JY Lee, appeared at an appellate court in Seoul and said to reporters "he wanted to apologise for causing worries" before entering to attend the first hearing for the trial. He made no further comments.

It's his first court appearance in nearly two years since he was freed from prison in early 2018.

Charges against Lee for bribery arose during a national scandal in 2016 that involved the then-South Korean President, Park Geun-hye, who was accused of abusing her power and receiving bribes from conglomerates via a close aide. She was eventually impeached and jailed.

The Samsung boss and executives of the company were accused of giving bribes in the form of money and horses to Park's aide in return for government support for a controversial merger of two business group affiliates.

In August, South Korea's top court found that the appellate court had wrongly dismissed the bribery charges against Lee that were in relation to Samsung giving three horses to the now ousted Park's confidant Choi Soon-sil. The top court then ordered a retrial of the bribery charges.

Following the order, the South Korean tech giant issued a rare statement, saying it "deeply regrets that this case has created concerns across the society. We will renew our commitment to carrying out the role of a responsible corporate citizen and will avoid a recurrence of past mistakes."

Due to the Supreme Court's decision, Lee could potentially face a heavier sentence than previously due to an increase in the total monetary value of what is deemed as a bribe under criminal law.

The Samsung boss was arrested back in 2017. He was initially found guilty and sentenced to five years in prison at the district court, but in 2018, he was freed by an appellate court as it did not accept the validity of some pieces of evidence which led to Lee receiving a suspended sentence instead.

Since leaving prison, Lee has been busy making "big moves" and large investment decisions. In July, he visited Tokyo to meet with Japanese business leaders amid rising trade tensions between South Korea and Japan over past historical conflict.

Samsung Electronics announced in late 2018 that it would invest $22 billion into AI and 5G by 2020. Meanwhile, Samsung Display earlier this month announced that it had plans to invest $11 billion in to QD displays by 2025.

Prior to his sentencing, Lee had been leading the conglomerate since 2014 after his father and Samsung patriarch, chairman Lee Kun-hee, suffered a heart attack and was hospitalised.


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