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S. Korea's top court orders retrial of Samsung heir

August 29, 2019

The decision is another blow to Samsung as it struggles with falling profitability and a trade spat with Japan.

Lee Jae-yong, Samsung Electronics
Image: picture-alliance/Photoshot

South Korea's top court on Thursday ordered a lower court to review part of a bribery case against Samsung heir Lee Jae-yong, who received a suspended sentence in connection with an influence scandal that brought down former president Park Geun-hye.

The decision could deal a blow to the world's biggest smartphone and memory chip maker if its de facto head is imprisoned. It comes at a time Samsung profits have slumped and South Korea and Japan are in a dispute that has restricted trade between the two Asian powerhouses.

The Supreme Court said a lower court failed to correctly evaluate what constitutes a bribe and that it should reconsider Lee's suspended sentence.

Chief Justice Kim Myeong-su said that three horses worth around $2.8 million (€2.5 million) that Samsung donated to the daughter of Park's friend Choi Soon-sil for equestrian training should be considered a bribe designed to influence the ex-president.

Lee, vice-chairman of Samsung Electronics, was sentenced to five years in prison for bribing Choi in order to seek favors from the now-imprisoned former president.

Last April, Park was convicted of 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. She is serving a 25-year prison sentence.

Lee was released from prison after a year, and an appeals court later suspended his sentence to two-and-a-half years.

cw/ng (AFP, Reuters)

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