South Korea's top conglomerate Samsung Group on Monday remained silent over the independent counsel's decision to seek a 12-year jail term against its de facto leader Lee Jae-yong on the alleged link to a corruption scandal that led to the ouster of former President Park Geun-hye. "The (Samsung) case typical corruption crime deriving from collusion between the public and corporate sector that had greatly undermined the constitutional values of civilian sovereignty and economic democratization", said the team of special prosecutors.
The prosecution said Samsung's intent in paying up for two funds backed by Park, and sponsoring the equestrian career of the daughter of a confidante at the center of the scandal, was to get government support for efforts to cement Lee's control of the smartphones-to-biopharmaceuticals empire. Such dealings once helped fuel the country's rapid industrialization but now increasingly are viewed as illegal and unfair.
In past cases, South Korean courts have often given suspended prison terms to members of the founding families of the chaebol, the big, family-controlled businesses that dominate South Korea's economy. They are Choi Gee-sung, former head of Samsung's now-disbanded control tower Future Strategy Office; Chang Choong-ki, then vice head; and Park Sang-jin, a president of Samsung Electronics. Choi is also on trial.
The charges could entail at least five years in prison if Lee is convicted.
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Lee and other Samsung officials have been charged with giving or planning to give a total of US$38.5 million in bribes to Choi.
Throughout his trial, he has consistently said that Choi extorted the money from Samsung. It demanded seven years for another executive Hwang Sung-soo. In return, the president exercised influence over government entities for favoritism towards the group including backing of Samsung C&T and Cheil Industries that helped to cement younger Lee's legitimate grip over the conglomerate.
Separately on Monday, South Korean police raided a management office for Samsung's family-owned residences in Seoul as part of an investigation into allegations of fund misappropriation and tax evasion related to interior renovations that took place between 2008 and 2015.