Samsung Heir Sentenced to Five Years for Graft Conviction

Jay Y. Lee, vice chairman of Samsung Electronics Co., was convicted of bribery and sentenced to five years in prison, a blow to the heir apparent of the world’s biggest maker of smartphones and memory chips.
A three-judge panel of Seoul Central District Court found Lee guilty of bribery, perjury and embezzlement on Friday. The 49-year-old has been in detention since February and proclaimed his innocence throughout the trial and his lawyer said he would appeal the verdict. Prosecutors had sought 12 years in prison.

The ruling casts doubt over Lee’s return to the conglomerate his grandfather founded almost 80 years ago and is now in a battle for smartphone supremacy with Apple Inc. Since his arrest in February, Samsung Electronics has bounced back from last year’s exploding Note 7 fiasco to release a new flagship and post record earnings with its shares also reaching an all-time high.

Lee also joins the list of Korean business leaders to be convicted of corrupt behavior, one that already includes his father Lee Kun-hee. The elder Lee received a suspended three-year prison sentence for evading taxes and embezzling corporate money.

Along with Lee’s sentencing, former Samsung executives were also convicted Friday. Former Samsung Corporate Strategy Office chief Choi Gee-sung and former President Chang Choong-ki were each sentenced to four years in prison, while two other executives get suspended prison terms.