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Samsung's de facto leader gets 5 years in jail for bribery

More than six months after his arrest, Jay Y. Lee was found guilty of bribery, embezzlement and perjury, reports South Korean media.

Samsung Vice Chairman Lee Jae-Yong Arrives At Court
Chung Sung-Jun/Getty Images

Samsung heir Jay Y. Lee has been sentenced to five years in prison, after being found guilty by a Seoul court of bribery and other charges, reports the Korea Times.

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 convicted Lee of bribery, embezzlement and perjury, according to the Times. The court said Lee was involved in 7.2 billion won ($6.38 million) worth of bribes given to former-president Park's friend and confidante, Choi Soon-sil, according to the publication.

The court also said Lee was guilty of embezzling 6.4 billion won ($5.67 million), reports the Times.

Samsung didn't immediately respond to a request for comment. Lee, who was detained in February, previously denied the allegations in court. His defense attorney Wu-cheol Song of Bae, Kim and Lee LLC gave this statement to CNET: "As a legal professional, I cannot possibly accept any part of the lower court's guilty verdicts, in terms of interpretation of law and finding of facts. We will appeal immediately."

Lee was accused of the bribes as part of an alleged exchange to get the government-controlled South Korean pension fund to back a 2015 merger between two Samsung Group's 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 was handpicked by his father to one day take control of the company. His arrest and now conviction raises questions about his future in the company, and the future of the company's management. It comes at a key time for Samsung Electronics, which just this week unveiled the Galaxy Note 8. The premium device's success would provide some needed vindication for the company following the infamous Note 7, millions of which needed to be recalled last year after several devices overheated and caught fire. 

Update, 10:09 a.m. UK time: Added statement from Lee's lawyer.

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