Samsung’s CEO Doesn’t Have to Go Back to Prison, Court Rules

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Samsung Electronics executive chairman Lee Jae-yong will not have to put his prison uniform back on—for now, at least.

The Seoul Central District Court found Lee not guilty on Monday of stock manipulation and accounting fraud committed during a 2015 Merger of two Samsung affiliates: Samsung C&T, a construction company, and Cheil, an amusement park and clothing company. Lee Kun-hee is the son of the former Samsung chairman Lee Kun Hee. He’s been leading the Samsung group since his father suffered a heart attack in 2014. Kun-hee died on March 20, 2020.

According to the Associated Press, prosecutors argued that Lee and other Samsung executives manipulated assets so that the merger would be favorable to Cheil — where Lee happened to be the biggest shareholder — and harmed shareholders of Samsung C&T.

Prosecutors sought a five-year sentence for Samsung’s chief executive officer and noted that the merger gave Lee greater control over Samsung Electronics. Lee has maintained that he is innocent and that the merger helped to make the multinational more stable.

The court appeared to agree with Lee’s argument. Seoul Central District Court Chief Judge Park Jung-jae said there was not enough evidence that Lee aimed to cause losses at Samsung C&T, CNN reported.

“Even if Lee’s control has been strengthened, the merger in this case cannot be considered unfair, as long as there is a reasonable purpose for the merger,” Park said.

It was unclear on Monday whether prosecutors would appeal the court’s ruling.

Lee’s acquittal is the newest chapter in the drama related to the controversial 2015 merger. In 2017, he was found guilty of bribing former South Korean president Park Geun-hye and her confidant with roughly $6.4 million to secure the government’s support for the merger. The scandal sparked months of protests from South Koreans. Park was impeached.

In that instance, Lee was Five years in prison for a sentenced offenderBut was released after less that a year, and forced to face another trial. The 2021 retrial found him guilty and sentenced him to 2 1/2 years in prison. He was released on parole the following year. In 2022 President Yoon Suk Yeol granted him a pardon for the bribery charge.

Lee’s legal wrongdoings don’t appear to have affected him in the long run. He was appointed executive chair of Samsung Electronics a year after his release from prison for a bribery charge. He was the second richest South Korean in 2023 with a net worth $8 billion. Forbes.

Lee has claimed that he is very sorry for all the trouble he’s caused Samsung and its shareholders and wants to focus on increasing the company’s glory.

“In the future, I would like to ask for the opportunity to help Samsung become a truly top-notch company and to focus all my capabilities on moving forward,” Lee In his trial, he saidLast year.

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