Samsung Vice Chairman Faces Another Legal Battle

Published: 29 August 2019

Lee Jae-yong in 2016 copy copyJay Y. Lee in 2016 (Photo: KBS, CC BY 3.0)

By Jason Seter

South Korea’s Supreme Court partially overturned a conviction against Samsung’s Vice Chairman who was given a suspended 2.5 year prison sentence for bribing the country’s ex-president, reported Reuters on Thursday.

The court ordered a retrial for Samsung Group's de facto chief, Jay Y. Lee, the grandson of Samsung’s founder and heir to the Samsung Group. He was originally convicted by a Seoul court of bribing ex-president Park Geun-Hye to help him tighten his grip over the Samsung conglomerate, or chaebol, and shift power from his father, Chairman Lee Kun-Hee.

According to the verdict, Jay had gifted three horses to Park’s friend, whose daughter is an equestrian.  

After he appealed, the Seoul High Court determined the gift was not a bribe.

However, on Thursday the Supreme Court of Korea ordered a retrial upon deciding that the High Court’s definition of bribery was far too limited. 

Supreme Court Chief Justice Kim Myeong-su stated the appeals court "misunderstood the law on bribery... which is at fault for influencing the ruling,” according to the BBC

For Samsung, the timing of the judgment is inopportune. As the world’s largest producer of smartphones and memory chips, the conglomerate has dominated the tech industry in recent years. But the impending legal struggle, a trade war with Japan, and sinking profits threaten to undermine Samsung Electronics’ global primacy, according to CNN.

Park remains imprisoned, serving a 25 year sentence for accepting up to 20 million dollars in bribes, but may face more jail time if Jae-Yong is found guilty.

Jay continues to maintain his innocence.