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After 12 Months In The Slammer Samsung Boss Is Freed

Lee Jae-yong, Samsung Group heir, leaves after his verdict trial at the Seoul Central District Court in Seoul, South Korea August 25, 2017. Lee was handed down 5 years jail sentence while prosecutors sought a 12-year in prison. REUTERS /Lee Jae-yong/Pool – RTS1D8W1

After 12 months in the slammer, Lee Jae-yong, the de facto head of Samsung is ready to take the helm again of the giant Korean conglomerate after being released.

The 49-year-old walked free last night when an appeals court cut his sentence for involvement in a government corruption scandal, he is now set to resume his duties as vice chairman of Samsung Electronics Co.

During the past 12 months it’s believed that he has had time to reflect on the direction of the Company and is now ready to outline a new vision and strategic direction.

In a decision that surprised some South Korean lawmakers and legal experts, the Seoul High Court replaced a five-year jail term with a suspended prison sentence of two years and six months, even as it upheld four of Mr. Lee’s five convictions, which centred around bribes allegedly paid to South Korea’s former president. Mr. Lee has denied wrongdoing.

Both Mr. Lee’s lawyers and prosecutors can appeal the High Court’s ruling with the Supreme Court. Mr. Lee’s attorney said he planned to file an appeal to clear his client of the remaining charges. A trial could begin as early as next month. Prosecutors, who had sought a 12-year jail term, couldn’t be reached for comment.

 

During the past 12 months Samsung has seen growth in the smartphone market slow at the same time brands such as Apple are looking to cut their reliance on Samsung made components as prices of memory chips, which spurred the company’s record profits, may have peaked, analysts say.

 

Lee took the helm at Samsung, after his father became incapacitated from a heart attack in 2014, pushing the conglomerate to become less opaque and more global in thinking.

 

Just weeks before Mr. Lee testified before South Korean lawmakers about the bribery scandal, in November 2016, Samsung announced its largest ever acquisition: an $8 billion deal to buy U.S. automotive technology manufacturer Harman International Industries Inc. Mr. Lee had personally backed big investments in biopharmaceuticals, betting the firm’s manufacturing background could give it an advantage in specialty drugs.

 

“It’s more likely they’ll do something bigger now that he’s back,” said Mark Newman, an analyst for Sanford C. Bernstein. Samsung has about $77 billion in cash.

 

“I apologize for not showing my best self,” he told reporters before getting in a car and going to visit his father at a hospital in downtown Seoul. His release came just days before the opening of the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympic Games, of which Samsung is a top-tier sponsor. While the decision’s timing was fortuitous, legal experts say it tracked the judicial schedule.

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