A court ruled Friday that the billionaire heir to the Samsung empire provided bribes in an effort to gain the support of then-president Park Geun-hye.
Although the sentencing Lee is not likely to have any impact on Samsung's business, it sure is going to affect the company brand and reputation in some way. Mr Lee, who denied all charges, had faced a jail sentence of up to 12 years. He is set to appeal the decision.
Prosecutors argued Lee paid or promised to pay a total of 43.3 billion won ($38.4 million) in return for actions including government support for the scion's hereditary succession at the Samsung group.
His lawyers have claimed that Lee was neither involved in nor knew of Samsung's decision to offer the money and other top executives, including Choi Gee-sung who headed the now-defunct Future Strategy Office that oversaw key decisions, made the call for fear of retaliation from Park and Choi. Joo Ok-soon, a 65-year-old housewife and leader of another conservative group called "Platoon of Moms", said Lee's trial was created to set the stage for Park's conviction. He said he was unaware of the foundations or the donations, which were overseen by other executives.
Dozens of Park's supporters have lined up outside the court for many days, often from before dawn and in sweltering summer heat, to secure seats in Lee's hearings to show their support.
"The accused, however, did not actively solicit the president's help and give bribes", Kim said, explaining the court's reasoning for the mandatory minimum sentences.
The heir of the Samsung empire was taken directly to prison - the Seoul Detention Center where he's been jailed nearly six months ago. Choi and Chang, who had been on trial without detention, will be taken behind bars.
"As a lawyer I can not possibly agree with the juridical decisions and acknowledged facts involved in the verdict", Samsung attorney Song Woo-cheo said outside the court. Lee, in return, was expecting political favours including the merger of two Samsung affiliated businesses that would have reportedly increased his strength within the company in 2015. Lee's father was convicted of tax evasion in 2009, and had a3-year sentence suspended, with judges citing his contributionto economic development and "patriotism through businessenterprise from job creation".
Reflecting public interest, the room was filled with the accused's family members, lawyers and reporters, as well as spectators. The two women are on trial in a different courtroom. Lee denied the charges.
The centre, in a Seoul suburb near apartments built by Samsung C&T 028260.KS and stores advertising Samsung Electronics' 005930.KS smartphones, is the country's third-most crowded correctional facility. "They also embezzled money from Samsung Electronics, illegally transferred assets overseas and concealed criminal profits".
Former president Park was toppled past year following an ongoing bribery scandal that raised the issue of politicians colluding with large corporations. The younger Lee's absence could lead to further empowerment of managers such as Vice Chairman Kwon Oh-hyun, who oversees semiconductors; President JK Shin, who is in charge of mobile products; and President Yoon Boo-keun, who runs the consumer appliances business.
The case has also been seen as a litmus test of tolerance South Korean courts have toward owners of family-run chaebol.
There had been pressure on the court to convict Lee, amid public anger in the face of the corruption scandal, which people believe symbolizes an unfair and unjust society that only benefits the most powerful in the country.
Moon's administration "is just going to work with these companies", Kang said. He also received a pardon for his assault conviction from ex-president Lee in 2008.