SEOUL — A South Korean court sentenced Samsung Electronics vice chairman Jay Y. Lee to two and a half years in prison, the court said on Monday, which will have major ramifications for his leadership of the tech giant as well as Korea’s views toward big business.
With this, Lee will be sidelined from major decision making at Samsung Electronics as it strives to overtake competitors, and from overseeing the process of inheritance from his father, who died in October, crucial to keeping control of Samsung.
Lee, 52, was convicted of bribing an associate of former President Park Geun-hye and jailed for five years in 2017. He denied wrongdoing, the sentence was reduced and suspended on appeal, and he was released after serving a year.
The Supreme Court then sent the case back to the Seoul High Court, which issued Monday’s ruling.
Under South Korean law, only a jail term of three years or fewer can be suspended. For longer sentences, the person must serve out the term barring a presidential pardon. With Lee returning to jail, the year he already served in detention is expected to count toward the sentence.
Monday’s sentencing can be appealed to the Supreme Court, but because the Supreme Court has already ruled on it once, chances are lower that is legal interpretation will change, legal experts said.
“In a case sent back by the Supreme Court, there is a narrower range of options for the judges’ bench… but it’s also true that the Supreme Court can’t really touch the final court’s sentencing,” said Rha Seung-chul, a lawyer not connected with the case.
—Reporting by Joyce Lee. Editing by Gerry Doyle