Samsung Group heir Jay Y. Lee a billionaire was handed a jail sentence of five years on Friday for bribery.
Following a trial of over six months related to a scandal that brought the South Korea president Park Geun-hye down, it was ruled by a court that Lee paid bribes in return for favors from the then president.
The court found Lee guilty of embezzlement, perjury and hiding assets abroad. Lee is 49 and the heir to one of the biggest corporate empires in the world.
He has been in custody since his arrest in February on charges he bribed Park in order to secure the control of a business conglomerate that is owner of Samsung Electronics, the leading chip and smartphone maker in the world, with interests that range from home appliance and drugs to hotels and insurance.
Lee, who left the courtroom solemn-faced wearing a dark suit, but no tie, was holding an envelope and escorted by officials from the justice ministry back to the detention center where he has been held.
Officials said the Lee; the heir apparent to the group would be the one who benefitted the most from political favors for the company.
Lee denied any wrongdoing and an attorney said Lee would file an appeal.
The complete verdict is not acceptable, said the attorney adding he was confident that his client would be found innocent in a higher court.
His sentence of five years, one of the longest a business leader in South Korea has been given, represents a big landmark for the country, where the conglomerates, run by families, referred to as chaebols, have been revered for years for helping to transform the country, once ravaged by war, into an economic powerhouse.
However, recently they have come under heavy criticism for holding back the country’s economy and stifling the smaller businesses as well as start-ups.
Samsung represents a symbol of the nation’s rise from poverty after the Korean War of 1950-53 and has come to represent the close and at times corrupt ties between chaebols and the politicians.
A professor of business at a South Korea university said the court ruling represented the turning point for the country’s chaebols.
Adding that in years past, chaebols were not afraid of the country’s laws because they have been lenient, but with the ruling handed down to Lee a precedent has been set for strict enforcement of the laws and the chaebols need to be wary.