02/06/2018, 09.35
SOUTH KOREA
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After 353 days in prison, the appeals court releases Samsung's heir

Acquitted of several charges. According to the judge, he was passively involved in the patronage for favours scandal. The "main perpetrator" is former President Park, who abused her power.

Seoul (AsiaNews / Agencies) - Lee Jae-yong, Samsung vice-president and heir, was released yesterday after the Court of Appeals overturned a previous ruling that found him guilty of corruption. Lee had ended up in the dock during the scandal that led to the ouster of the then South Korean president, Park Geun-hye.

Four executive members of the technology giant, including Choi Gee-sung and Jang Choong-ki, were also released with him.

Judge Cheong Hyung-sik reduced his original five-year sentence to two and a half years, suspending another four years. This means that Samsung's heir will not have to serve other periods of imprisonment unless he is responsible for other crimes.

Lee remained in prison for 353 days for "offering" 43.3 billion won (about 32 million euros) to Park and her friend and adviser Choi Soon-sil in exchange for political favors to consolidate their control over the Samsung group, while his father, director Lee Kun-hee, suffered deteriorating health.

Overturning the lower court ruling, the new ruling states that Lee did not seek illicit favors to advance his own interests as a group leader for economic reasons, and that the brand under his direction had no reason to ask particular favors from the then President.

The court recognized only the 3.6 billion won he paid to support Choi's daughter Chung Yoo-ra as a bribe. Chung is a former equestrian competitor who stayed in Germany. This sum had cost Lee the charge of hiding money abroad - a charge from which yesterday he was acquitted, since there is no evidence that these funds had been used for personal purposes.

According to the judges, Park and Choi were guilty of extortion, while Lee limited himself to passively executing their requests. "The main culprit in this patronage scandal is Park, who has been negligent in her duties and has abused the power she was invested with by the Constitution and the people, and has allowed a private individual like Choi to benefit from it."

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