Not over by any means

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Not over by any means

Lee Jae-yong, the de facto leader of the country’s top conglomerate Samsung Group, was found guilty of bribery and four other charges connected to the power abuse scandal that cost President Park Geun-hye her office.

He was sentenced to five years in jail. The bench concluded that Lee and other group executives gave money to Park with expectations that she would help in Lee’s cementing his control of the family-run corporate empire.

It identified as bribes the group’s sponsoring of 7.2 billion won ($6.4 million) in equestrian training expenses for Chung Yoo-ra, daughter of Choi Soon-sil, the clandestine friend who caused the doom of Park, and another 1.6 billion won extended to an institute grooming talented winter sports athletes run by Choi’s relative.

It did not consider donations of 20.4 billion won to two cultural and sport foundations ran by Choi as bribes. Since much of the 43.3 billion won the independent counsel claimed were bribes were found not to be, Samsung lawyers will have a good case for an appeal.

The judge concluded that the equestrian training sponsorship was a “bribe for the economic community of Park Geun-hye and Choi Soon-sil.” In return Park used her influence over state agencies to back the merger of Samsung C&T and Cheil Industries and transformation of Samsung Life Insurance into a financial holding entity to cement Lee’s control over Samsung. It described Park and Choi as sharing one “economic community” — money given to Choi would, in fact, end up in Park’s pocketbook.

But the bench disagreed that Lee offered bribes to ask favors of the former president: “There is no evidence pointing to Samsung Group outright making bribes for hereditary succession.”

To validate a criminal conviction, evidence beyond a reasonable doubt is essential. The case must be proven so that there could be no reasonable doubt in the mind of the judge in delivering a guilty sentence.

The ruling did not take into account the passive corporate response to repeated and aggressive demands from the president. No companies can resist such blunt demands from a president who has the final say in economic policy.

The judge pointed out that “the essence of the case is the deep collusive ties between the political and capital power.” Disputes over the bench’s interpretation and evidence will likely become more heated in appeals.

JoongAng Ilbo, Aug. 26, Page 26
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