Supreme Court orders a retrial of Samsung heir’s bribery case

South Korea’s Supreme Court has ordered a new trial for Samsung heir Lee Jae-yong. Lee was convicted of offenses including bribery and corruption in connection with the massive scandal that rocked South Korea in 2016, leading to the ouster of the then-President Park Geun-hye.

Lee was sentenced to five years in jail for bribing Choi Soon-sil, a longtime friend of Park. Samsung Group had sent 3.6 billion won (~$2.9 million) to Choi’s Germany-based firm. However, Lee walked out free a year later after an appeals court dismissed most of his convictions and gave him a suspended sentence. The Supreme Court overturned that decision today and ordered a retrial.

Samsung faces another challenge

In a fresh blow to Samsung, the Supreme Court of South Korea today said that Lee should be found guilty of bribing Choi with at least 5 billion won (~$4.1 million) more. Apparently, Samsung had gifted three horses worth 3.4 billion won (~$2.8 million) to Choi for the equestrian training of her daughter. Chief Justice Kim Myeong-su, who read out the sentence, said that the horses should be considered as bribes as well.

Kim also labeled Samsung’s 1.6 billion won (~$1.3 million) donation to a sports foundation run by the Choi family “a planned move” as Lee sought the government’s help in succeeding his father and securing control of the Samsung Group. These charges were not included in the previous court ruling on the grounds that Samsung didn’t give Choi ownership of the horses.

Samsung is already battling several issues such as falling profits and the Japanese trade restriction. Today’s Supreme Court ruling now deals a fresh blow to the world’s biggest smartphone and memory chip maker. If found guilty, the conglomerate will be in a serious leadership crisis. Under South Korea’s law, a sentence can be suspended only when the embezzlement amount is less than 5 billion won. In Lee’s case, the amount currently totals at 8.6 billion won.

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