SEOUL – A South Korean appellate court reduced on Monday the five-year prison term of the heir and de facto leader of Samsung, Lee Jae-yong, to a suspended sentence and authorized his release from prison by acquitting him of several charges related to a massive corruption scandal.
Lee was sentenced to five years in prison in August 2017 for bribing former South Korean president Park Geun-hye in exchange for official favors from the government to consolidate his position as group head, and also for embezzlement, hiding assets overseas and perjury.
The Seoul High Court reduced on Monday Lee’s sentence to a suspended sentence of two-and-a-half years in prison, and allowed him to leave immediately the correctional facility where he was detained.
The judges have considered that it has not been proven that the company obtained government favors within the framework of the influence peddling scheme by Park and her close friend Choi Soon-sil, who has been dubbed the “South Korean Rasputin.”
Lee was sentenced for giving 8.8 billion won ($8 million) to Park and Choi, in return for government backing for a key operation of the company considered to be of strategic importance.
The operation, a merger between two Samsung subsidiaries that took place in 2015, reinforced Lee’s control over the conglomerate, whose leadership he assumed de facto after his father Lee Kun-hee suffered a heart attack.
Lee, 49, left the correctional facility where he had been housed since Feb. 17, 2017 and refused to make any statements to the large number of journalists who had gathered there awaiting his release.