Samsung Chairman Acquitted of Stock Price Manipulation and Accounting Fraud Charges

The Seoul Central District Court in South Korea has acquitted Samsung Electronics Chairman Lee Jae-yong of charges related to stock price manipulation and accounting fraud. The accusations were connected to a controversial merger between two Samsung affiliates in 2015, which further solidified Lee’s control over South Korea’s largest company.

This ruling comes as a relief for Lee, who had previously faced legal troubles and was pardoned less than two years ago for bribing a former president in a corruption scandal that led to the downfall of the previous South Korean government.

In its decision, the court stated that the prosecution failed to provide sufficient evidence proving that the merger between Samsung C&T and Cheil Industries was conducted unlawfully with the intention of strengthening Lee’s control over Samsung Electronics.

Prosecutors had originally sought a five-year jail term for Lee, but it remains uncertain whether they will appeal the court’s verdict. Throughout the proceedings, Lee maintained his innocence by asserting that the 2015 merger was simply a part of normal business activity.

It is important to note that Lee had already served an 18-month prison sentence after being convicted in 2017 on separate bribery charges related to the same 2015 deal. Originally sentenced to five years, his bribes totaling 8.6 billion won ($6.4 million) were given to former President Park Geun-hye and her close confidante in exchange for government support towards the merger, a move crucial in solidifying his control over the Samsung business empire.

In a series of events that demonstrate leniency towards major white-collar crimes in South Korea, Lee was released on parole in 2021 and later granted a pardon by South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol in 2022. Such preferential treatment for convicted tycoons has been observed throughout the country’s history.

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