Samsung heir freed after court suspends jail term

By BLOOMBERG

SEOUL • Samsung Electronics Co vice chairman Jay Y Lee is free to leave prison after a South Korean high court suspended his sentence in a bribery scandal.

The heir to the country’s largest conglomerate had appealed his sentence, which the court reduced by a half to 2.5 years yesterday. He will be on probation for four years, the court said. Lee stood up and looked around with a blank stare after the ruling, blushing as he walked out of the court room. He was detained for 353 days, according to South Korean news service Yonhap.

Lee, 49, was the highestprofile business figure to have been embroiled in a graft probe that brought down former Korean President Park Geun-hye and inflamed resentment toward the country’s well-connected chaebol. Prosecutors originally sought a dozen years for Lee, arguing that would help establish the rule of law for a country re-examining ties between government and business. A Seoul court had earlier convicted him of giving a confidante of Park’s thoroughbred horses in the hope it would secure government support for a merger that would help his ascension to the top of the company.

Lee appealed the original sentence and has denied any legal wrongdoing, saying he never sought to unseat his hospitalised father as Samsung Electronics chairman in the first place.

The shares of Samsung ended up less than 1% in Seoul yesterday. The stock climbed 41% in 2017.