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Samsung heir avoids jail, for now

June 9, 2020

Samsung heir Lee Jae-yong is accused of being involved in stock manipulation to advance his succession and gain control of the firm. A court ruled he should not be jailed during his trial.

Südkorea Seoul - Lee Jae-Yong zu Korruptionsvorwürfen
Image: Getty Images/Pool/Jeon Heon-Kyun

A court in South Korea decided not to issue an arrest warrant for Samsung Group heir Jay Y. Lee for charges of bribery, embezzlement, and other offenses. 

Prosecutors had been seeking an arrest warrant for Lee, whom they accused of being involved in price manipulation and illegal trading during the 2015 merger of Cheil Industries and Samsung C&T.

The Seoul Central District Court denied the request, finding that there was insufficient probable cause to justify arresting him or two former Samsung executives.

"There was insufficient explanation on the need to arrest the defendants against the principle of trial without detention," Judge Won Jung-sook said in a court statement. "Prosecutors seem to have already secured a considerable amount of evidence through their investigation."  

She said a trial would decide whether Lee committed illegal acts.

Consolidating power

The controversial merger of the two Samsung affiliates is said to have been a key step to Lee's succession, helping facilitate his plan to assume greater control of Samsung, one of the largest family-controlled conglomerates in the country.

Read more: South Korea's Choi Soon-sil – the woman who brought down a government

Lee was the largest shareholder in Cheil Industries, and critics say Samsung sought to artificially lower the price of C&T to give him a bigger stake in the merged entity — a key part of the Samsung structure — consolidating his grip on the conglomerate.

Samsung denied the allegations against Lee on Friday, saying it was "beyond common sense" to claim Lee was involved in the decision-making over the C&T stock price.

The group further said the lengthy bribery probe is weighing on the company's management, which is in a "crisis" at a time when the coronavirus pandemic and US-China trade disputes are adding to uncertainty.

The 51-year-old heir has already served one year of a five-year sentence in prison from 2017 to 2018, for giving horses as gifts to win support from the government of disgraced former President Park Geun-hye for the merger.

Park herself was convicted and is serving a 24-year prison sentencefor receiving or demanding more than $20 million from conglomerates, sharing secret state documents, blacklisting artists critical of her policies, and firing officials who resisted her abuses of power. 

aw,jcg/nm (AFP, Reuters)

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