South Korean media mounting division over Samsung heir verdict

Polaris  Newscom

After the sentencing, Lee's attorneys said they can not accept the verdict, saying they are confident that Lee would be cleared of all charges at an appeals court.

The closely-watched verdict is the latest convulsion in a political scandal that prompted millions of South Koreans to protest last fall, culminating in the ouster and arrest of Park as well as the arrests of Choi and Lee.

Korean KoonAng Daily - a company known for close ties with the Samsung Group - stated, "Samsung lawyers will have a good case for an appeal", and that "No companies can resist such blunt demands from a president who has the final say in economic policy".

Samsung Electronics Chief Executive Kwon Oh-hyun asked employees to rally around the company.

But Lee, vice-chairman at Samsung Electronics and the Samsung founder's grandson, had said he was unaware of the donations, which were overseen by other executives.

"The court should have considered that (Samsung) did not have a criminal intent, but wanted to avoid trouble if it refused the government's request", Yonhap News Agency quoted an official from a local business group as saying on Friday.

Payments were said to include $6.4m in supporting the equestrian career of Choi's daughter. Park, who was embroiled in a tumultuous series of scandals, was removed from office in March.

Five year jail has been awarded to Lee and South Korean President Moon Jae In welcomed the move and called it a step towards eradicating corruption.

The decision will test whether Samsung can succeed without the crown prince of the Lee family at the helm.

Plus, Samsung's defense is likely to argue against the lower court's interpretation that giving financial support to Park's confidant Choi Soon-sil is "effectively the same as Park herself receiving it", the lawyers said.

"I think that Lee's sentence will be reduced at the High Court".

Lee Jae Yong's father, who remains Samsung chairman, was previously convicted of bribery, tax and other offences himself, and the scion's grandfather also had brushes with the law, but neither was ever jailed.

Ms. Park and Ms. Choi have both denied wrongdoing and are facing charges in a separate trial. Samsung will appeal the ruling immediately, Song Woo-cheol, a Samsung attorney, told reporters. Lee has two sisters, but neither has been heavily involved in Samsung Electronics, which is widely regarded as the center of the Samsung empire.

The ruling in Lee's case can be appealed twice.

Lee joined the Samsung Electronics board in October 2016 around the time of the launch of the company's Galaxy Note 7 smartphone model that continually caught fire and resulted in a subsequent termination of the model.

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