(USNewsBreak.com) – Electronics giant Samsung merged with Cheil Industries in 2015, strengthening the former company’s ties in the industry. Its chairman, Lee Jae-yong, faced accusations of engaging in unlawful conduct to increase his control over Samsung, including accounting fraud and stock price manipulation. A judge recently ruled in the case, acquitting Lee of all charges.
According to a Seoul district court judge, the prosecution didn’t provide enough evidence to prove its case against Lee. Prosecutors were seeking a five-year prison sentence. Lee has denied any wrongdoing in the case, saying the merger was just “normal business activity,” according to ABC News. His lawyer applauded the ruling, saying it justified Lee and the merger. The prosecution has the opportunity to appeal, though it’s unclear whether it will.
A South Korean court acquitted Samsung Electronics Chairman Lee Jae-yong of financial crimes in relation to a contentious merger between two Samsung affiliates in 2015 that tightened his grip over South Korea’s biggest company.https://t.co/PwJJ7XLRCs
— ABC News (@ABC) February 5, 2024
However, that’s not to say it didn’t stun many, especially given that a court convicted Lee of bribery charges related to the deal in 2017, and he ended up spending 18 months in prison. In that instance, a court found him guilty of offering 8.6 billion won, approximately $6.4 million, to the president at the time, Park Guen-hye, to gain governmental support for the merger. The move led to widespread protests and Park’s eventual ouster from the government. Lee received a pardon in 2022 from current President Yoon Suk Yeol.
The ruling shines a light on the power that chaebol leaders, or the heads of powerful family conglomerates, have within the country. Military leaders established the system following the end of the Korean War in 1953 to distribute special loans and financial support to specific families. Chaebols have only grown since then. Cases like Samsung’s have raised the question among critics of whether the conglomerates have too much power, especially as of late. According to The New York Times, some have suspected the syndicates of engaging in corrupt deals with government officials and stifling smaller businesses.
Lee became the chair of Samsung Electronics in 2014 after his father, Lee Kun-hee, suffered a heart attack.
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