Disgraced Samsung vice chairman Jay Y Lee has launched an appeal against his five-year jail term for a string of corruption offences. Last month, Lee was convicted of bribing former president Park Geun-hye to strengthen his control over Samsung. The conviction is part of a wider corruption investigation into Park, who herself faces conviction before the end of the year.
Things could have been worse for the tycoon as prosecutors campaigned for a 12-year sentence. Yet despite the lesser sentence South Korea’s third-richest man, Lee has now confirmed that he will be launching an appeal the decision and maintains his innocence.
Lee was found guilty of approving donations to Park’s friend, Choi Soon-sil, in return for securing government support for the contentious merger of two Samsung affiliates that would strengthen his control over the group. Since his arrest in February, Lee has insisted the payments were made to Samsung without his knowledge, and with no expectation of favours from the Park administration. In total Lee was found guilty of sanctioning £30 million in bribes to four entities controlled by Choi.
The appeal trial is expected to begin in mid-October, with a Seoul High Court likely to rule on it before January. Under South Korean law, a defendant can only be kept in detention for four months while an appeal is ongoing.
Four other Samsung executives were also convicted in the lower court in the bribery case.
Earlier this month, the defence team laid out its strategy submitted in hundreds of pages of arguments to the High Court. The defence is expected to question the lower court’s logic that Lee expected Park’s help in “succession operations,” which the court defined as all actions Samsung affiliates took “to strengthen Lee’s control of Samsung Electronics.” Lee’s defence has argued there was no such thing as “succession operations” and actions such as a 2015 merger of two Samsung affiliates was taken for the companies’ own perceived profit.