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South Korea top court returns Samsung heir Lee's bribery case for review

  • Ju-min Park and Joyce Lee

    Reuters

Seoul, South Korea   /   Thu, August 29, 2019   /   02:02 pm
South Korea top court returns Samsung heir Lee's bribery case for review In a file picture taken on July 1, 2008 Jay Y. Lee (formerly Lee Jae-Yong), son of Samsung group chairman Lee Kun-Hee and then a senior vice-president of Samsung Electronics, arrives for his father's trial at a court in Seoul. (AFP/Jung Yeon-Je)

South Korea's Supreme court on Thursday overturned part of an appeals court ruling in the bribery case of Samsung Group's de facto chief Jay Y. Lee, who had been given a two-and-a-half-year suspended sentence for seeking favour from the country's ex-leader.

The Supreme Court said the interpretation by the Seoul High Court on what constituted bribes by Samsung to then-President Park Geun-hye was too narrow.

The case centred on whether three horses donated by Samsung Group for the training of the competitive equestrian daughter of Park's friend should be considered bribes aimed at winning the president's favour.

The Supreme Court said the appeals court erred in not recognising the horses as bribes given by Samsung to win favours.

The ruling cast doubt whether Lee, 51, can focus on steering the group's flagship Samsung Electronics Co Ltd through falling profitability and Japanese export curbs on materials crucial for the world's leading chipmaker.

Lee, vice chairman of Samsung Electronics, was sentenced in 2017 to five years imprisonment for bribing a friend of Park as he sought to succeed his father and secure control of Samsung Group.

He was freed after a year in detention when the appellate Seoul High Court halved his sentence and suspended it for four years. Both Lee, who denies wrongdoing, and prosecutors appealed.

Samsung Electronics shares extended losses to a decline of 2% after the ruling, while those of affiliates Samsung BioLogics Co Ltd and Samsung C&T Corp fell nearly 8% and 6%.