South Korea top court returns Samsung heir Lee's bribery case for review

South Korea top court returns Samsung heir Lee's bribery case for review

Samsung Electronics Vice Chairman Jay Y. Lee
Samsung Electronics Vice Chairman Jay Y. Lee speaks at the company's headquarters in Seoul, South Korea, on Jun 23, 2015. (Photo: Reuters/Kim Hong-Ji/File Photo)

SEOUL: South Korea's Supreme court on Thursday (Aug 29) overturned part of an appeals court ruling in the bribery case of Samsung Group's de facto chief Jay Y. Lee, who had been given a two-and-a-half-year suspended sentence for seeking favour from the country's ex-leader.

The Supreme Court said the interpretation by the Seoul High Court on what constituted bribes by Samsung to then-President Park Geun-hye was too narrow.

The case centred on whether three horses donated by Samsung Group for the training of the competitive equestrian daughter of Park's friend should be considered bribes aimed at winning the president's favour.

The Supreme Court said the appeals court erred in not recognising the horses as bribes given by Samsung to win favours.

The ruling cast doubt whether Lee, 51, can focus on steering the group's flagship Samsung Electronics through falling profitability and Japanese export curbs on materials crucial for the world's leading chipmaker.

READ: South Korea's top court to rule on Samsung heir's bribery case on Aug 29

Lee, vice chairman of Samsung Electronics, was sentenced in 2017 to five years imprisonment for bribing a friend of Park as he sought to succeed his father and secure control of Samsung Group.

He was freed after a year in detention when the appellate Seoul High Court halved his sentence and suspended it for four years. Both Lee, who denies wrongdoing, and prosecutors appealed.

Samsung Electronics shares extended losses to a decline of 2 per cent after the ruling, while those of affiliates Samsung BioLogics Co Ltd and Samsung C&T Corp fell nearly 8 per cent and 6 per cent.

Source: Reuters/ic/ga