Samsung heir found guilty of bribery and hiding assets
The heir-apparent to the Samsung business has been jailed for five years for corruption, including bribery, embezzlement and hiding assets overseas. Lee Jae-yong, also known as Jay Y Lee, was arrested in February for bribing Choi Soon-sil, a close friend of South Korea’s impeached president, Park Geun-hye, to secure government support for a business deal.
The timeline for such major charges was incredibly quick, as Mr Lee was first questioned as a witness in October last year after prosecutors launched a special investigation team to look into the corruption and influence-peddling scandal that rocked the South Korean government. He was then questioned as a suspect in January this year and shortly afterwards officials raided the offices of the Fair Trade Commission and Financial Services Commission. Both Ms Park and Ms Choi are currently on trial.
Samsung is accused of paying or promising to pay a total of $38m to Ms Choi in return for government support for a merger of two units of the conglomerate. The merger, which was approved, helped Mr Lee tighten his grip on the Samsung group, which his family controls through a complex web of cross-shareholdings.
As with any such investigation, the evidence put forward has included financial papers, documents, emails and text messages. The forensic accountants’ investigation will have included following the threads of hidden assets and it will not have been easy to unravel the complex web of shareholdings.
Author: Roger Isaacs, 1 September 2017