South Korean prosecutors have recommended a 12-year jail term for Lee Jae-yong, 49-year-old billionaire heir of the Samsung business empire, urging a court to convict him of bribery and other crimes.
Lee, vice chairman of Samsung Electronics, became emotional Monday as he denied ever trying to seek political favors in his final remarks in the four-month-long trial. Lee was arrested in February amid a tumultuous corruption scandal that triggered months of massive public protests and culminated with the ouster of South Korea’s president.
A panel of three judges at the Seoul Central District Court said they will hand down their verdict on Aug. 25.
Lee, princeling of South Korea’s richest family and its biggest company, choked up during his final remarks, saying his ordeal was unjust but he had reflected during his six months in jail and realized that the bigger Samsung became, “the stricter and higher the expectations from the public and the society,” a pool report from Monday’s hearing said.
“Whether it was for my personal profit or for myself, I have never asked the president for any favors,” he told the court.
In his remarks wrapping up the trial, Special Prosecutor Park Young Soo said Samsung’s alleged bribery was typical of the corrupt and cozy ties between the South Korea’s government and big businesses. Such dealings once helped fuel the country’s rapid industrialization but now increasingly are viewed as illegal and unfair.
Park also accused Samsung officials of lying in their testimonies to protect Lee.
In past cases, South Korean courts have often given suspended prison terms to members of the founding families of the chaebol, the big, family-controlled businesses that dominate South Korea’s economy. In some cases, presidents have pardoned them, citing their contributions to the national economy. But recent rulings on white collar crimes have shown less leniency. If convicted, Lee may be the first in his family to serve a prison term.
Lee was indicted in February on charges that included offering $38 million in bribes to four entities controlled by a friend of then-President Park Geun-hye, including a company in Germany set up to support equestrian training for the daughter of one of Park’s friends, Choi Soon-sil.
Prosecutors alleged the bribes were offered in exchange for government help with a merger that strengthened Lee’s control over Samsung at a crucial time for organizing a smooth leadership transition after his father fell…