A Seoul Central District Court judge on Friday found Lee guilty of corruption, hiding assets overseas and perjury, handing down a 5-year prison sentence to the Samsung vice chairman and de facto head of the country's largest company. He was sentenced to five years in jail on charges connecting the bribery scandal involving ousted former President Park Geun-hye and her confidant Choi Soon-sil. Lee would have known that Ms. Park's request for Samsung to support equestrian activities would have been for Chung Yoo-ra, the daughter of her friend, Ms. Choi.
Lee, choking back tears at times, testified that he knew little about Samsung affiliates other than the electronics business, and that he wasn't part of the approval or decision-making process.
Lee's ailing father, officially still the chairman of Samsung Group, was twice sentenced to prison - and twice pardoned.
The country's powerful, family-run business empires - called chaebols - have close political connections, and a long history of their top figures being charged with bribery, embezzlement, or tax evasion, among other offences. Prosecutors have demanded a prison term of 12 years for the heir to the country's biggest fortune.
Samsung did not deny donating money to the foundations, but said it was coerced into doing so by president Park, according to The Guardian.
Lee denied all charges, saying the donations were made without his knowledge. "With a five-year sentence against Lee, it's very much expected that it will be very hard for her to be acquitted". The arrangement was crucial for allowing Kun-hee to inherit overall management control of the Samsung Group.
A verdict in the trial of the former president, who faces a possible life sentence, is expected in October. Lee is the third-generation head of a giant, publicly traded conglomerate and critics say that kind of governance is outdated.
"The entire guilty verdict is unacceptable", Song said, adding he was confident his client's innocence would be affirmed by a higher court. The family company also has stakes in businesses that range from pharmaceuticals to ship building. The office was behind the decisions that led to the indictments - and which were instrumental in the impeachment and removal of Park. "It will be a disaster not just to an individual company but to the nation's economy". Two other Samsung executives were found guilty in the same trial and sentenced to four years in prison. Lee's father also had his terms suspended and was set free through a presidential pardon. Park is accused of pressuring South Korea's national pension service to support the deal.
Samsung's offer of 1.63 billion won to a Choi-controlled children sports center was regarded by the court as bribery.
The prosecution also claimed that Lee attempted to hide criminal proceeds in the process of purchasing horses for Choi's daughter.