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Samsung heir's 5-year prison sentence suspended

After being found guilty of bribery last August, Jay Y. Lee will avoid a jail sentence. Instead he'll be on probation for four years.

Samsung heir Lee in custody over bribery scandal
Samsung heir Jay Y. Lee in custody.
Chung Sung-Jun/Getty Images

Samsung Electronics heir Jay Y. Lee was sentenced to five years in prison last August after being found guilty of bribery, perjury and embezzlement. On Monday, a South Korean appeals court suspended his sentence, Bloomberg reports.

Lee's sentence was reduced from five years to two-and-a-half years before being suspended. He'll leave prison with four years of probation, after being detained since he was officially charged with bribery last February.

Lee, who has acted as de facto Samsung head since his father, Lee Kun-Hee, suffered a heart attack in 2014, had faced up to 12 years in prison. His case is part of a corruption scandal that led to the impeachment of now-former South Korean president Park Geun-hye.

The Seoul Central District Court last month convicted Lee of bribery, embezzlement and perjury. The court said Lee was involved in 7.2 billion won ($6.6 million) worth of bribes given to Park's friend and confidante Choi Soon-sil, The Korea Times had reported. The court also said Lee was guilty of embezzling 6.4 billion won ($5.67 million), reported the Times. 

Samsung did not respond to a request for comment.

Lee had always denied the allegations in court. "As a legal professional," his defense attorney, Wu-cheol Song of Bae, Kim and Lee, told CNET last August, "I cannot possibly accept any part of the lower court's guilty verdicts, in terms of interpretation of law and finding of facts."

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Lee was accused of bribes made as part of an alleged exchange to get the government-controlled South Korean pension fund to back a 2015 merger between two Samsung Group holding companies. The polarizing merger, between Samsung's C&T construction and trading business and its Cheil Industries chemicals business, helped solidify the Lee family's hold on Samsung Group.   

Lee's newfound freedom comes less than a week after Samsung reported strong business performance in 2017. Last year it made an operating profit of 53.6 trillion Korean won ($50 billion), way up from the 29.2 trillion won ($27 billion) it made in 2016.

Samsung said its growth was mainly propelled by its components business, particularly thanks to memory cards used in servers and mobile devices. Meanwhile, shipments for OLED screens were up, surely thanks in no small part to Samsung selling millions of screens to Apple for the iPhone X, though profits on LCD displays were down.

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