SEOUL — South Korean prosecutors recommended imprisoning the billionaire heir of the Samsung business empire for 12 years on Monday, urging a court to convict him of bribery and other crimes in a national corruption scandal.
The prosecutors’ recommendation ends a four-month-long trial into allegations against Samsung’s 49-year-old vice chairman, Lee Jae-yong. Lee was arrested earlier this year as the corruption scandal prompted months of massive public protests that culminated with the ouster of South Korea’s president.
In his closing remarks, special prosecutor Park Young Soo said Samsung’s alleged bribing of the president was typical of the corrupt and cozy ties between the South Korea’s government and big businesses.
Such dealings once helped fuel the country’s rapid industrialization but now increasingly are being scrutinized as illegal and unfair. Park accused Samsung officials of lying in their testimonies to protect Lee.
Lee was indicted in February on charges that including offering USD$38 million (1.3 billion baht) in bribes to four entities controlled by a friend of then-President Park Geun-hye. Prosecutors believed that the bribery was offered in exchange for government help with a merger that strengthened Lee’s control over Samsung at a crucial time for organizing a smooth leadership transition after his father fell ill. Prosecutors allege the money was paid to a company in Germany to bankroll equestrian training for the daughter of a friend of then-President Park Geun-hye.
Park was removed from office in March and is being tried separately. Her friend Choi Soon-sil also is on trial.
Lee has denied all charges. He has said he did not know of Choi or her daughter before the scandal grabbed national headlines and said the succession situation at Samsung was not discussed during three meetings he held with the former president.
Samsung’s lawyers do not contest having donated a large sum of money to entities controlled by Choi. They disagreed with the prosecutors regarding the nature of the fund and insisted that at the time the donations were made Samsung was unaware that Choi controlled them.
Prosecutors also are seeking heavy penalties for four other former Samsung executives who had belonged to a once-powerful corporate strategy office that handled such activities. Prosecutors asked the court to imprison Lee’s mentor Choi Gee-sung, a former vice chairman at Samsung Electronics, for 10 years. They are seeking seven to 10 year prison terms for three other former Samsung executives.
Story: Youkyung Lee