The trial of Samsung Group's Vice Chairman and heir Jay Y. Lee started on Thursday and his lawyer said that the defendant denies all charges against him after the Supreme Prosecutors' Office (SPO) accused him of bribery and embezzlement of corporate funds, as well as several other violations related to an influence-peddling scandal that shook South Korea last fall. Lee didn't attend the first trial personally as he's still under arrest at Seoul Detention Center where he ended up in February after the SPO managed to get an arrest warrant for him approved. As a defendant, Lee wasn't required to attend the preparatory hearing that was held on Thursday as the purpose of the initial hearing was to organize evidence, manage schedules, and agree to dates for testimonies. The court will decide the date of the second hearing in Lee's trial next week and the Vice Chairman of Samsung Group is expected to attend that one.
Lee's lawyers are basing their legal defense on the fact that the prosecution doesn't have a perfectly solid case against him. During the trial, the defense will try to prove how the evidence that the prosecution is going to present is either circumstantial or wasn't obtained in a legitimate manner. One of Lee's lawyers implied that the prosecutors cannot prove Lee gave the order for $37 million to be donated to several organizations linked to the South Korean President Park and her confidante Choi Soon-sil. The prosecution alleges that the donations were used as bribes to facilitate a 2015 merger between Samsung C&T and Cheil Industries. The merger streamlined the succession proceedings within Samsung Group and gave more power to the part of the conglomerate controlled by the founding Lee family, the prosecutors said. The aforementioned bribe was allegedly paid in exchange for the National Pension Service's support of the deal. The largest pension fund in the country held a significant stake in Cheil Industries and was set to lose millions if the merger occurred, but still voted for the deal following Lee's alleged bribe.
The current legal framework indicates that Lee's lower court trial should be finished by late May, though Samsung Group's heir is bound to appeal to any decision that doesn't result in him walking free. An update on the situation is expected to follow next week.