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UPDATE 5-Samsung leader Jay Y. Lee given 5-year jail sentence for bribery
2017年8月25日 / 凌晨4点21分 / 3 个月前

UPDATE 5-Samsung leader Jay Y. Lee given 5-year jail sentence for bribery

    * Seoul court says Lee paid bribes to seek ex-leader's
favour
    * Finds Lee guilty of all charges including embezzlement,
perjury
    * Sentence one of longest jail times for chaebol heir
    * Lee's lawyer says to appeal lower court verdict
    * Ruling to help end nexus of business and politics - Blue
House

 (Adds presidential Blue House comment)
    By Joyce Lee and Yuna Park
    SEOUL, Aug 25 (Reuters) - The billionaire head of South
Korea's Samsung Group, Jay Y. Lee, was sentenced to five years
in jail for bribery on Friday in a watershed for the country's
decades-long economic order dominated by powerful, family-run
conglomerates.
    After a six-month trial over a scandal that brought down the
then president, Park Geun-hye, a court ruled that Lee had paid
bribes in anticipation of favours from Park.
    The court also found Lee guilty of hiding assets abroad,
embezzlement and perjury.
    Lee, the 49-year-old heir to one of the world's biggest
corporate empires, has been held since February on charges that
he bribed Park to help secure control of a conglomerate that
owns Samsung Electronics            , the world's leading
smartphone and chip maker, and has interests ranging from drugs
and home appliances to insurance and hotels. 
    Lee, who emerged stony-faced from the Seoul courtroom in a
dark suit, but without a tie, and holding a document envelope,
was escorted by justice ministry officials back to his detention
centre. 
    "This case is a matter of Lee Jae-yong and Samsung Group
executives, who had been steadily preparing for Lee’s succession
... bribing the president," Seoul Central District Court Judge
Kim Jin-dong said, using Lee's Korean name.
    Kim said that as the group's heir apparent, Lee "stood to
benefit the most" from any political favours for Samsung.
    Lee denied wrongdoing, and one of his lawyers, Song
Wu-cheol, said he would appeal.
    "The entire guilty verdict is unacceptable," Song said,
adding he was confident his client's innocence would be affirmed
by a higher court. The case is expected to be appealed all the
way up to the Supreme Court, likely next year.  
    The five year-sentence - one of the longest given to a South
Korean business leader - is a landmark for South Korea, where
the family-run conglomerates - or chaebols - have long been
revered for helping transform the once war-ravaged country into
a global economic powerhouse.
    But they have more recently been criticized for holding back
the economy and stifling small businesses and start-ups.
    Samsung, a symbol of the country's rise from poverty
following the 1950-53 Korean War, has come to epitomize the cosy
and sometimes corrupt ties between politicians and the chaebols.
    "The ruling is a turning point for chaebols," said Chang
Sea-jin, a business professor at Korea Advanced Institute of
Science and Technology. "In the past, chaebols weren't afraid of
laws because they were lenient. Now, Lee's ruling sets a
precedent for strict enforcement of laws, and chaebols should be
wary."
    Under South Korean law, sentences of more than three years
cannot be suspended.
    
    LEADERSHIP VACUUM
    The third-generation de facto head of the powerful Samsung
Group, Lee has effectively directed operations since his father,
Lee Kun-hee, was incapacitated by a heart attack in 2014.
    Some investors worry a prolonged leadership vacuum could
slow decision-making at the group, which has more than five
dozen affiliate companies and assets of 363.2 trillion won
($322.13 billion).             
    Its listed companies make up about 30 percent of the market
value of South Korea's KOSPI         stock index.
    Many tycoons, including Lee's father, were convicted of
crimes in the past, ranging from bribery, embezzlement and tax
evasion, only to get presidential pardons, as both the
government and the public feared going too hard on them would
hurt the economy.
    But South Korea's new liberal president, Moon Jae-in, who
won a May election, has pledged to rein in the chaebols, empower
minority shareholders and end the practice of pardoning tycoons
convicted of white-collar crime.
    The presidential Blue House said in a statement that it
hopes the ruling will serve as an opportunity to "end the nexus
of business and politics that has held back the country."
    In a June interview with Reuters, Moon said he did not
believe Samsung's operations depended just on Lee. 
    "When Lee was taken into custody, the share prices of
Samsung went up," Moon said. "If we were to succeed in reforming
the running of the chaebols and also increasing transparency, I
believe this will not only help the economic power of Korea but
also help to make the chaebols themselves more competitive."
    Investors say shares in chaebol companies trade at lower
prices than they would otherwise because of their opaque
corporate governance - the so-called Korea Discount.
    Shares of Samsung Electronics dropped more than 1 percent,
and other group companies, including Samsung C&T             and
Samsung SDS            , also turned lower after the verdict.
    The court said Samsung's financial support of entities
backed by a friend of Park's, Choi Soon-sil, constituted
bribery, including 7.2 billion won ($6.4 million) in sponsoring
the equestrian career of Choi's daughter.
    In return, prosecutors say, Samsung sought government
support for the 2015 merger of two of its affiliates, which
helped Lee tighten control of the conglomerate. His lawyers had
argued that the merger was done for business reasons.
    Some criminal lawyers had expected Lee to be found innocent
of the major charges, as much of the evidence at the trial has
been circumstantial. The appeals court and the Supreme Court
might put a greater emphasis on prosecutors to provide direct
proof of quid pro quo, the lawyers said.
    
    PARK SUPPORTERS OUTRAGED
    Park, who was forced from office in March, faces her own
corruption trial, with a ruling expected later this year.
    Prosecutors have argued that Park and Lee took part in the
same act of bribery - so Lee's conviction would appear ominous 
for the former president. 
    Hundreds of Park's diehard supporters who rallied outside
the court on Friday reacted with outrage to the ruling.
            
    "Our ultimate goal is Park's acquittal and release," Kim
Won-joon, a 62-year-old former construction worker said. "We
worry how today's guilty verdict for Lee would affect Park's
ruling."
    Such supporters are a minority compared with the huge crowds
that turned out in Seoul every week to call for Park's ouster
after the bribery scandal surfaced late last year.
    Public approval of Lee's prosecution may underscore growing
frustration in Asia's fourth-largest economy that the wealth
amassed by conglomerates has not trickled down.
    "I think it was difficult for a court to ignore public
opinion, given that the scandal rocked the country," said
Chung Sun-sup, chief executive of research firm Chaebul.com.
    "The five-year sentence was low given that he was found
guilty of all the charges. I think the court gave him a lighter
sentence, taking into account Samsung's importance to the
economy."
    ($1 = 1,127.5300 won)

    
 (Additional reporting by Jack Kim, Hyunjoo Jin and Dahee Kim,
Writing by Soyoung Kim; Editing by Ian Geoghegan, Robert Birsel)
  

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