The legal troubles of Samsung Vice Chairman Lee Jae-Yong keep compounding. The heir to the South Korean chaebol is currently undergoing a retrial for bribery, accounting fraud, and stock manipulation charges. According to South Korean publication Yonhap News, prosecutors are now demanding nine years in prison for Lee.
Prosecutors said the Samsung heir deserves nine years in prison given the company's position on the global scale. The prosecution further said that his imprisonment would also set an example for the nation.
The retrial of this high-profile bribery case began at the Seoul High Court in September this year. However, Lee was absent from the retrial proceedings due to his father's death. Lee Kun-Hee, the man largely credited for making Samsung the global icon that it is today, passed away at the age of 78 on October 25th.
Samsung heir Lee Jae-Yong could face up to nine years in prison
Lee Jae-Yong, the de facto head of the Samsung Group, faces charges of bribing former South Korean President Park Geun-Hye's longtime friend Choi Soon-Sil. It is alleged that Lee bribed Choi in order to get government help in forcing the merger of Cheil Industries and Samsung C&T and take control of the Samsung Group from his then-ailing father.
Lee was the largest shareholder of Cheil Industries. A merger with Samsung C&T would have allowed him to take control of the Samsung Group. He allegedly inflated the value of Cheil Industries and deflated the value of Samsung C&T to force the merger in 2015. He is also charged with accounting fraud at Samsung Biologics, a subsidiary of Samsung C&T.
Following an initial trial, Lee was sentenced to five years in prison back in 2017. However, after an official appeal, an appellate court soon cut short his prison sentence to two and a half years, suspended for four years. He was freed a year later.
The South Korean prosecution accelerated the investigation this year. The prosecution has summoned several former and incumbent top-level Samsung executives over the case. Prosecutors have indicted Lee and others without physical detention though.
As expected, Lee has maintained that the merger between Cheil Industries and Samsung C&T was normal management activity. He has also repeatedly denied the charges of accounting fraud at Samsung Biologics.
In the meantime, Lee continues to lead Samsung's business strategies. He has visited several factories and R&D centers over the past year and met with top leaders of the company to draw up plans for the future.