Samsung heir released from prison on bail

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Samsung heir Lee Jae-Yong has been released from a South Korean prison and is now on parole.

He was in jail for 207 days – just over half the punishment he received after being convicted of enticement and larceny in January.

Moreover, the country’s former president Park Guen-hye was also a part of this case. He too was imprisoned for bribery and embezzlement.

Lee’s grandfather was the founder of Samsung Electronics. And since 2014 he had been the de facto head.

On his release, Lee gave a brief statement to reporters. He said:

“I’ve caused much concern for the people. I deeply apologise. I am listening to the concerns, criticisms, worries and high expectations for me. I will work hard.”

The 53-year-old was convicted for two-and-a-half years in prison by a high court in January.

Lee was accused of paying 43bn won ($37.7m; £26.7m) to two non-profit foundations operated by Choi Soon-Sil, a friend of Park’s, in exchange for political support.

This exchange was supposed to include assistance for a provocative Samsung merger which paved the way for Lee to become subsequent head of the multinational company.

But the deal required support from a government-run national pension fund.

During Lee’s verdict, the court said that he “actively provided bribes and implicitly asked the president to use her power to help his smooth succession” at the head of Samsung.

The court found Lee guilty of bribery, embezzlement and concealment of criminal proceeds worth about 8.6 billion won ($7.8m; £5.75m).

The Justice Ministry said it decided to release Lee after considering the effects of the pandemic on South Korea’s economy and global markets.

In a statement, President Moon Jae-in’s office said his release was made in the national interest and asked for understanding.

“We are well aware that there are supporting and opposing views on Vice-Chairman Jay Y Lee’s parole. The views of the people who are opposed are also right,” it said.

“On the other hand, there have been many people who called for his parole in this severe crisis, hoping that he will help the country with respect to semiconductors and vaccines.”

However, Lee’s parole conditions include five years of business restrictions – it is unclear if he will be able to run the company unless he gets an exemption.

He will also need approval for any trips abroad.

Lee is also under investigation for fraud and stock manipulation and if found guilty could be jailed again.

 

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