Samsung's Jay Y. Lee freed from prison in surprise verdict
In a stunning decision, a South Korean court suspended the prison sentence of Samsung Electronics Co. Vice-Chairman Jay Y. Lee, who had been arrested in February'17 in a scandal that brought down the country's former president. His term was reduced by half to 2.5 years, and then suspended. This has raised questions on whether the government can act against SKorea's powerful chaebols.
The deal that triggered the downfall of several high-profile citizens
Lee had reportedly given $36mn to Choi Soon-sil, former president Park Geun-hye's confidante, for the government's support of the merger of Samsung's two subsidiaries. The deal was backed by the government-run National Pension Service, a major shareholder, despite opposition from influential investors. The scandal led to Geun-hye's removal from power and the downfall of many high-profile citizens, including NPS Chairman Moon Hyung-pyo and Soon-sil.
Lee has maintained he is innocent
Lee was also accused of perjury, hiding assets abroad, concealing money earned through criminal activities, and blocking justice. In August, he was sentenced to five years' imprisonment for bribery and other charges. Lee has maintained he's innocent. His lawyers said they would appeal the ruling.
Lee's disappearance hasn't impacted Samsung's performance
The verdict comes a week after Samsung announced an operating profit of $50bn last year, a steep increase from 2016's $27bn. This included $69bn revenue for chipsets, toppling Intel for the first time in 25 years. In 2017, it also released the Galaxy S8 and Note 8. Samsung attributed the high profits to its components business, especially memory cards, and OLED screens.
Lee on probation for four more years
Lee is now on probation for four years. He has been found guilty of some lesser charges and has been prohibited from travelling outside SKorea without approval. His lawyers say he plans to appeal to the Supreme Court against these charges.