South Korean prosecutors want to add seven years to the five-year prison sentence given to Samsung Group Vice Chairman Jay Y. Lee. Special prosecutor Park Young-soo made the demand official during Mr. Lee's appellate hearing on Wednesday, thus repeating the request for a 12-year sentence made as part of the original trial which ended in August. Prosecutor Park reiterated most arguments previously raised against Samsung's scion which was convicted on charges of corruption after the Seoul Central District Court agreed he sanctioned bribes to associates of former President Park Geun-hye in exchange for political favors. The move is said to have facilitated a 2015 merger of Samsung Group's subsidiaries Cheil Industries and Samsung C&T, having supposedly been made to strengthen Mr. Lee's control of the chaebol at a direct expense of the largest national pension fund which had a stake in one of the ventures and lost significant money on the consolidation.
The case played a major role in the impeachment of President Park who repeatedly refused to testify against Mr. Lee, with both insisting their previous encounters were brief and didn't lead to any kind of collusion. The prosecutors already managed to cast some doubt over such claims after the first trial, additionally weakening Mr. Lee's defense. Should his appeal to the Seoul High Court be unsuccessful, the 49-year-old is expected to bring the case in front of the Supreme Court of South Korea. Likewise, the matter is likely to end up in front of the highest judicial body in the country even if Mr. Lee is acquitted of all charges as part of his first appeal, with state prosecutors already signaling they'd also be prepared to escalate the trial if the charges end up being dropped by the currently presiding court.
Prosecutor Park said Wednesday that Mr. Lee's previously expressed concerns about the future of Samsung Group are misleading, claiming the main reason he's eager to get out of prison is to prevent further financial losses stemming from his weakening grip on the conglomerate. Should the multi-billionaire exhaust all of his legal remedies, he'd still be able to ask for a presidential pardon, though current President Moon Jae-in is unlikely to give one seeing how he was elected on a political platform that strongly opposes chaebols and the amount of influence they exert on Seoul.