Technology

Samsung heir Jay Y.Lee gets a presidential pardon

South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol has pardoned Samsung heir Jay Y. Lee and cleared him of bribery charges in hopes of reviving the country’s economy. Lee was originally sentenced to five years in prison in 2017 after being found guilty of bribing officials to support the merger of two Samsung subsidiaries that would have cemented his control over the tech giant. He was released after a year in prison, but the South Korean Supreme Court reversed that decision and ordered the case to be retried.

While Lee was sentenced to two-and-a-half years in prison in that retrial in early 2021, he was paroled six months later in a development that civic groups had described as yet another example of the judicial system’s leniency to the elite. Now Lee doesn’t have to worry about being sent to jail again for bribery – the presidential pardon even allows him to rejoin Samsung’s board of directors and travel abroad to close deals. Previously, he was barred from taking on any official role at Samsung under the terms of his probation, despite management keeping him apprised of the latest developments.

Corresponding Bloomberg, Lee is now expected to make key strategic decisions for the tech giant, including chipmaking-related deals. The Korean government said in a statement:

“In order to overcome the economic crisis by reviving the economy, Samsung Electronics Vice Chairman Lee Jae-yong, whose sentence was recently ended, will be reinstated.”

Similarly, Justice Minister Han Dong Hoon said at a briefing:

“Given the urgent need to emerge from the national economic crisis, we have carefully selected business leaders who spearhead the national growth engine through active technology investment and job creation to be pardoned.”

In its latest earnings report, Samsung posted a 12 percent increase in profits on weak demand for mobile devices and PCs, which it attributed to “geopolitical issues and inflation concerns on top of ongoing weak seasonality.” The company also expects demand for consumer devices to remain weak in the coming months.

As Bloomberg said it’s unclear if Lee intends to take over as chairman of Samsung, which has been a vacant position since the death of his father, Lee Kun-hee, in 2020. It’s worth noting that Lee is still not entirely free of legal troubles, however, and could still face jail time if found guilty in a separate count of fraud and stock manipulation. He will continue to attend hearings on the case.

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Russell Falcon

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