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South Korea court orders retrial of Samsung’s Lee in bribery case

Bloomberg Seoul | Updated on August 29, 2019

Samsung Electronics Vice Chairman, Jay Y. Lee was arrested in February 2017. File Photo   -  Reuters

South Korea’s highest court ordered the retrial of Samsung Electronics Vice Chairman Jay Y. Lee over bribery charges, reviving legal uncertainties around the country’s largest company just as its navigating global trade turmoil.

The Court on Thursday voided an earlier decision to suspend Lees 2.5-year prison sentence and is sending the case back to the lower court, it said. Lee may end up going to prison again, having previously served a year after getting arrested in February 2017. He was released in 2018 after the Seoul High Court halved what had originally been a five-year term and suspended it for four years.

Also read: South Korea court jails Samsung scion Jay Lee for five years

Lee, 51, was the highest-profile business figure to have been embroiled in a graft probe that inflamed resentment toward the country’s well-connected chaebol, rocked domestic politics and helped bring down former President Park Geun-hye, who was impeached and removed from office in 2017. The Samsung executive was accused of directing tens of millions of dollars to entities controlled by a confidante of Park in return for government support of a 2015 merger that cemented his control of the group.

Read more: S Korean parliament impeaches scandal-hit President Park

Lee, who has led Samsung for most of the time since his father suffered a heart attack in 2014, will now have to deal with a possible month’s-long retrial at a time when China and the US are escalating a trade war and Japan is restricting exports of key materials to South Korea. Samsung has also been grappling with falling profits from a memory chip downturn and sluggish smartphone demand.

It means the possibility of sending Lee back to prison has risen, Park Ju-gun, president at corporate research firm CEOScore in Seoul, said before the ruling. For Samsung, not only the governance restructuring but also major business decisions will be stopped.

Published on August 29, 2019

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