Business

Samsung heir walks free after appeals court quashes bribery charges

Lee Jae-yong to challenge remaining corruption allegations

By Kat Hall

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The heir to Samsung, Lee Jae-yong, has been freed with a suspended sentence after spending a year in jail on charges of offering bribes to the disgraced former president of South Korea, Park Geun-hye.

Last year, Lee was sentenced to five years behind bars for corruption after a six-month trial.

He had been charged with offering $38m (£27m) in bribes to the former president, who is being held in a detention centre, and her confidant Choi Soon-sil in the hope of receiving favours. The Seoul court had also found him guilty of hiding assets abroad, embezzlement and perjury.

But today Seoul's appeals court rejected most of the bribery charges against Lee. However, it still found him guilty of giving 3.6bn won (£2.3m) for equestrian training of Choi's daughter and embezzling Samsung funds.

The appeals court halved Lee's sentence to two-and-a-half years, suspended for four years. It said Samsung had not sought any favours from Park Geun-hye.

"This is a case where Ms Park intimidated Samsung's management and her friend pursued personal interests," the court said in the ruling. "The defendant passively offered bribes because he could not easily turn down their request."

Lee will appeal the remaining bribery charges at the country's supreme court.

The ruling means Lee will be able to return to the helm of the electronics conglomerate.

Just last week, Samsung posted bumper annual results on the back of high memory chip demand, with yearly operating profit up 83 per cent to 53.7 trillion won (£35.4bn). ®

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