12-year jail for Samsung heir sought over bribery

Seoul, Aug 7 (IANS) South Korean prosecutors on Monday sought 12 years in prison for Samsung Electronics Vice Chairman Lee Jae-yong, an heir apparent of Samsung Group, for bribery and other charges in a massive corruption scandal.

The independent counsel had indicted Lee in February on charges of providing or promising some 43.3 billion won ($38 million) to ousted President Park Geun-hye’s friend Choi Soon-sil, reports Yonhap News Agency.

In return, he secured government backing for the merger of two Samsung units in 2015.

The merger made the 49-year-old heir the largest shareholder in the combined entity, now called Samsung C&T, which in turn owns a controlling stake in Samsung Electronics, the crown jewel of the conglomerate with assets worth 350 trillion won.

The heir to the sprawling business empire is also accused of embezzlement, hiding assets overseas, concealment of criminal proceeds and perjury.

Special Prosecutor Park Young-soo, who heads the investigation, told the court: “It is a typical corruption crime stemming from a back-scratching alliance between politics and business, which has indeed compromised our constitutional values.”

“Over the course of the probe, it was difficult to cast away doubts that Samsung, the top firm that accounts for 18 per cent of our GDP, exists only for its leader and his leadership transfer,” he said.

Lee’s legal counsel reiterated claim that all evidence against defendants is “circumstantial” and that there was no direct evidence to prove the funding was in exchange for business favours.

Although he has admitted having made the contributions, Lee said it was not intended as a favour and he was coerced by Park and Choi.

Lee is viewed as the de facto head of Samsung after his father and Samsung Group patriarch Lee Kun-hee was incapacitated after suffering a heart attack in 2014.

The court will deliver its ruling on Lee and his executives on August 25.

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