SEOUL. – South Korean prosecutors yesterday demanded the heir to the Samsung empire be jailed for 12 years over his role in the corruption scandal that brought down the country’s last president.
At the final hearing in the trial of Lee Jae-Yong, the vice chairman of Samsung Electronics, prosecutors called him the “ultimate beneficiary” of crimes committed in the scandal, which culminated in the impeachment and dismissal of president Park Geun-Hye.
If the judges convict him and agree with the sentence recommendation it will be among the harshest penalties ever passed on a top executive of a chaebol, the business groups that dominate Asia’s fourth-largest economy.
Lee and four other executives of Samsung – the world’s biggest smartphone maker and the country’s largest firm – are accused of bribing Park’s powerful confidante with millions of dollars to win presidential favours and ease a controversial 2015 merger deal.
“The defendants were closely tied to power and sought personal gains,” the prosecutors said.
They sought a 12-year sentence for Lee, who is also charged with embezzlement and hiding assets overseas among other offences, 10-year terms for three of his co-accused, and seven years for the last of the defendants in the trial.
Lee denied any wrongdoing. “I once again deeply regret and apologise for causing a huge disappointment,” he told the court in his final statement, choking up and pausing at one point for a sip of water.
Lee has been in custody for the past six months, and said that during his time in detention he realised he had “many shortcomings” and there were some things he “failed to oversee” as a business leader.
But he insisted: “I never sought favours from the president for personal gain.”
Lee (49) has effectively been at the helm of Samsung, which has revenues equivalent to about a fifth of the country’s GDP, since his father was left bedridden by a heart attack in 2014. – AFP.