Samsung Group Vice Chairman Jay Y. Lee changed his attorney before officially filing for an appeal to the five-year prison sentence he was given by the Seoul Central District Court last month, with the competent judicial body finding him guilty on the charges of bribery, embezzlement of corporate funds, perjury, concealing proceeds of a criminal act, and hiding of assets overseas. The news of the change in Mr. Lee's legal team came on Thursday, with his law firm revealing that the heir apparent to the largest business conglomerate in South Korea opted to replace Song Wu-cheol with Lee In-jae with the goal of strengthening his legal team composed of experts from Bae, Kim & Lee LLC. Mr.s Lee's new legal representative previously worked as a judge at numerous courts in the Far Eastern country, including the one which sentenced Samsung's de facto leader who essentially took over the chaebol in 2014 after his father and Samsung Group Chairman Lee Kun-hee was reportedly left in a comatose state.
The attorney Lee specializes in corporate criminal cases and finance matters and is a more senior partner at the aforementioned law firm than Mr. Song. Hearings related to Mr. Lee's appeal are expected to start later this month, with the competent judicial body being set to rule on the matter in early 2018, likely by the end of January. State prosecutors originally demanded a 12-year prison sentence for Samsung's chief, claiming he was the mastermind behind the company's plan to indirectly bribe former President Park Geun-hye in order to get a 2015 merger of Samsung C&T and Cheil Industries approved. The largest shareholder of the former — National Pension Service (NPS) — was supposedly pressured by the former administration to approve the consolidation despite losing significant money on it.
Mr. Lee was accused of greenlighting a number of bribes sent in the form of donations to several organizations controlled by then-President Park's close associate Choi Soon-sil. After those entities known for supporting Ms. Park's policy initiatives received their money, Samsung secured the NPS's approval of the merger, with Mr. Lee consequently facilitating the succession proceedings within the company and ensuring his founding family stays in control of the conglomerate despite officially being only a minor shareholder of Samsung Group, the prosecution claimed. The defendant remains adamant he knew nothing of the donations which were officially approved by the Future Strategy Office, a corporate management hub of the conglomerate which has been disbanded in the aftermath of the scandal.