South Korean authorities have sentenced Lee Jae-Yong, Samsung's de facto leader, to two years and six months following the infamous bribery scandal in 2017. Yong is the only son of Samsung's early-day patron, Lee Kun-hee, leading the South Korean tech-manufacturing giant. His father stepped down from the position due to health issues in 2014.
Jae-Yong, also known professionally in the West as Jay Y. Lee, has been involved in the bribery case alongside South Korea's former president and first lady, Park Geun-Hye, who was sent to jail because of the same issue in2017. After a series of investigations and arrests, Jae-Yong managed to dodge the jail time in 2018, only to be sentenced again this year and transferred to Seoul Detention Center.
"It is very unfortunate that Samsung, the country's top company and proud global innovator, is repeatedly involved in crimes whenever there is a change in political power," the court's verdict says, as noted by the BBC.
In 2017, the tech giant was accused of paying $37,7 million to two non-profits in exchange for political support. These two organizations are operated by Choi Soon-Sil, a close friend of the then-president, Geun-Hye.
Death of the Heir
Lee Kun-Hee took over Lee Byung-Chul's presidency at Samsung after joining Samsung Group in 1966. Byung-Chul is Kun-Hee's father, making Samsung a generational company for over decades.
During his lifetime, Lee was known as a radical leader who never backed down when it came to challenging rival companies, like Japan's Sony Corporation. The controversial boss is known to take the credits for Samsung's transformation from a small-time manufacturer to the world's largest tech company.
In May 2014, Kun-Hee received treatment for his heart attack. Lee also successfully led South Korea to host the Winter Olympics in 2018, and he remained Samsung's de jure leader until his death in October 2020 from cardiac arrest.
Soon after his death, Jae-Yon resumed the leadership. He's been considered one of the country's wealthiest people, amassing over $6.7 billion.
In fact, this is not the first time a Samsung boss faces such scrutiny from the law.
Besides the controversial bribery account, Lee has blatantly provided the dirty money and asked the president to smoothen his succession. The court charged Lee for bribery, embezzlement, hiding assets overseas, and perjury, although he and his law team have been vehemently denying them.
"The nature of this case is the former president's abuse of power violating corporate freedom and property rights. Given that nature, the court's decision is regrettable," Lee's lawyer, Lee In-Jae, told the BBC.
Kun-Hee, Lee's father, was also involved in bribing president Roh Tae-Woo in 1966 before being pardoned by President Kim Young-Sam in the latter years.