Samsung heir Lee Jae-yong has been sentenced to five years in prison following a six-month trial after he was found guilty of bribery and other corruption offences.
The billionaire and acting chairman of the world’s largest smartphone manufacturer, who is also South Korea’s third richest man, has been detained since February facing a string of charges including bribery, embezzlement and hiding assets overseas.
The case has been surrounded by huge public pressure amid growing resentment against South Korea’s biggest companies known as chaebols. The scandal also saw the impeachment of South Korea’s former president.
Lee was accused of making large donations worth £29m to non-profit foundations run by a close friend and advisor of the former president Park Geun-hye, Choi Soon-sil, in return of political favours, something Park denies.
The billionaire heir denied all charges and faced up to 12 years in prison.
The landmark ruling made by a Seoul court found that Lee had paid bribes in anticipation of favors from then President Park Geun-hye and also found him guilty of hiding assets abroad, embezzlement and perjury.
The five-year sentence is one of the longest terms given to a South Korean business leader.
One of his lawyers said Lee would appeal against the court ruling. Song Wu-cheol said: “The entire verdict is unacceptable,” according to Reuters and added that he was confident his client’s innocence would be affirmed by a higher court.
Since the verdict was made Samsung’s shares fell one per cent and Lee’s leadership has been called into question. He has been acting chairman since his father had a heart attack in 2014.
Former president Park who was forced from office over the scandal is facing her own corruption trail with a ruling expected later this year.