With no appeal, Samsung's Lee eligible for pardon

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With no appeal, Samsung's Lee eligible for pardon

In this file photo, Samsung Electronics Vice Chairman Lee Jae-yong enters the Seoul High Court on Jan. 18, 2021 to attend a ruling in his retrial for bribery.  [NEWS1]

In this file photo, Samsung Electronics Vice Chairman Lee Jae-yong enters the Seoul High Court on Jan. 18, 2021 to attend a ruling in his retrial for bribery. [NEWS1]

 
Samsung's leader Lee Jae-yong will not appeal the conviction that sent him back to prison for 18 months, one of his lawyers said Monday.  
 
“My client accepts the ruling humbly and will not appeal,” Lee In-jae, a lawyer for Samsung Electronics Vice Chairman Lee, said.  
 
In a retrial ordered by the Supreme Court in 2019, the Seoul High Court on Jan. 18 found Lee guilty of giving bribes worth 8.6 billion won ($7.8 million) to former President Park Geun-hye through her longtime friend Choi Soon-sil for political favors. The court sentenced Lee to two and a half years in prison.  
 
After the court announced the ruling, Lee was taken into custody from the courtroom. He is currently detained at the Seoul Detention Center in Uiwang, Gyeonggi.  
 
Monday was the deadline for Lee and the independent counsel team that prosecuted him to appeal. The independent counsel also said it will not appeal.  
 
As both sides decide to accept the ruling, Lee’s trial, which began with his indictment in February 2017, formally ended.  
 
It is the second time that the 52-year-old tycoon has been locked up. He was released from prison after 353 days in February 2018 when his initial appeals trial reduced a five-year prison term for bribery to a suspended sentence. Since he spent nearly a year in detention, he has one year and six months left to complete his term.  
 
After eight more months in prison, Lee will be eligible for parole. According to the law, a prisoner who serves two-thirds of a sentence is eligible for parole.  
 
Because his trial is formally over, Lee is also eligible for a presidential pardon.  
 
In December 2015, Lee’s cousin Lee Jay-hyun, chairman of CJ Group, was convicted in a retrial by the Seoul High Court of tax evasion and embezzlement. He was sentenced to two and a half years in prison and a 25.2-billion-won fine.
 
Lee appealed the ruling to the Supreme Court, but dropped the appeal on July 19, 2016. The move came shortly after news that President Park would grant special pardons in the coming month.  
 
At the time, CJ Group released photos of Lee in a deteriorated health condition and requested a pardon. He was granted a special pardon to mark Aug. 15 as Liberation Day in 2016.  
 
The Korean president often announces pardons ahead of major anniversaries such as the March 1 Independence Day, Aug. 15 Liberation Day and Christmas. Many convicted leaders of family-run conglomerates have received suspended sentences in criminal cases, which allows them to avoid jail time, and later received presidential pardons to restore their rights.
 
It remains to be seen if President Moon Jae-in will grant Samsung’s Lee a special pardon. In a New Year’s press conference, Moon flatly rejected the possibility of granting special pardons to former Presidents Lee Myung-bak and Park Geun-hye anytime soon.  
 
Moon vowed not to grant pardons to politicians or tycoons when running for president in 2017. After he took office in May 2017, however, Moon announced special pardons on four occasions, and politicians close to him such as Lee Kwang-jae were included. No major businessperson, however, has been granted a special pardon by Moon.
 
BY SER MYO-JA   [ser.myoja@joongang.co.kr]  
 
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