A South Korean judge overseeing Samsung Group vice chairman Jay Y. Lee’s bribery trial yesterday told him to “humbly accept” the outcome of the trial, which could result in a tougher sentence for the conglomerate’s de facto leader.
Lee, whose Korean name is Lee Jae-yong, attended the first hearing of a bribery trial at Seoul High Court after the South Korean Supreme Court ordered a review of his 2017 graft case.
The top court in August overturned part of an appeals court bribery conviction against the third-generation Samsung leader, who was given a two-and-a-half-year suspended sentence for seeking favors from former South Korean president Park Geun-hye.
The interpretation by the Seoul High Court on what constituted bribes by Samsung to Park was too narrow, the Supreme Court said.
“Please take this trial with an attitude to humbly accept whatever results of the trial will be,” Judge Jung Joon-young said before wrapping up the 40-minute hearing.
Arriving at the courthouse earlier, Lee stepped out of a van to a throng of journalists and made a brief comment, but did not answer questions about an accusation that he gave bribes to influence Park.
“I feel very sorry for causing concerns for many people,” a somber Lee said, bowing his head and walking into the court as anti-Samsung protesters jeered.
Jung said that Samsung should have internal control systems to prevent crimes committed by top executives of the conglomerate.
He also asked that 51-year-old Lee show leadership at the country’s top corporate giant, comparing him to his ailing father who suffered a heart attack in 2014.
“In 1993, at age of 51, Lee Kun-hee dropped old and rotten practices and declared a new management of Samsung and overcame crisis. In 2019, Lee Jae-yong, who became 51, what declaration should Lee make?” Jung told a packed courtroom.
“Please do what you need to do and can do even during the trial period as the leader of the corporation,” he told Jay Y. Lee.
The trial comes as South Korean President Moon Jae-in seeks help from big business leaders to resuscitate a fragile economy.
South Korean economic growth slowed more than expected in the third quarter, data released on Thursday showed.
Moon thanked Jay Y. Lee for Samsung’s commitment at a ceremony this month unveiling an US$11 billion investment in display technologies.
The Supreme Court last week closed a separate bribery case involving Lotte Group chairman Shin Dong-bin, allowing him to stay out of jail with a suspended jail sentence.
After the hearing, Jay Y. Lee and his lawyers did not answer questions from the media and left the courthouse.
Legal experts have said that a fresh verdict would be unlikely this year, meaning a further extension to legal troubles that have hovered over Jay Y. Lee and Samsung for nearly three years.
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