Handwritten Notes Emerge In Trial Of Samsung Vice Chairman
39 pages of handwritten notes found on various notebooks are set to be aired as South Korean prosecutors go after Samsung Electronics, Vice Chairman Jay Y. Lee who is currently in jail accused of bribery.
The notes were written by a former presidential aid to South Korea’s former President Park Geun-hye.
The evidence is set to be presented as part of South Korea’s largest-ever graft scandal which has seen the billionaire heir to the Samsung group fending off accusations of corruption just as its largest corporation is trying to regain ground lost to Apple during 2016’s Note 7 recall debacle.
Wearing a gray suit without a tie, Lee listened calmly as prosecutors took an hour to outline charges against him. Prosecutors said notebooks from An Chong-bum, a former chief secretary for economic affairs and policy coordination, backed claims that the tycoon ordered money funneled to a friend of Park’s. Those funds, portrayed as donations, were intended to secure government backing for a pivotal 2015 merger that shored up Lee’s control of Samsung Electronics, they said.
“The essence of this case is, simply put, the chronic and typical collusion between government and business in our society,” special prosecutor Park Young-soo, who spearheaded the pre-trial investigation into Samsung and Lee, said as the hearing began.
Lee declined to speak in his own defense on Friday. But his lawyers maintained that the prosecution had yet to show categorically that the tycoon asked for specific favors when he met with President Park. Lee felt he couldn’t turn down the demands of the country’s most powerful person, but didn’t know the donations could go to her friend, his lawyers argued.
Hearings will resume April 13. Dubbed the “trial of the century,” the proceedings now underway threaten to expose a complex web of ties between the government and the nation’s largest corporations, and have cast uncertainty over succession at South Korea’s biggest conglomerate. Detained outside the capital since February, Lee must win the trial to resume guiding a $260 billion corporation trying to salvage its reputation after a series of exploding phones forced the eradication of the marquee Note 7 line.
Friday’s hearing at Seoul’s Central District Court coincided with the release of Samsung’s best quarterly earnings in almost four years. The world’s largest maker of smartphones reported a better-than-projected 48 percent rise in operating income to $8.7 billion for the March quarter, fueled by robust sales of memory chips and displays.
Other counts against Lee include hiding assets overseas, perjury and hiding criminal profits, all related to the bribery case. Samsung said after his arrest that it disagrees with the special prosecutor’s findings and that the court proceedings would “reveal the truth.”
A verdict for Lee is expected by the end of May under a special prosecution law that calls for fast-tracking the case. Lee faces five years to life in prison if convicted. But under South Korea’s three-tier judiciary system, Lee can turn to an appellate court and then the Supreme Court if he loses, with each court taking up to two months to deliberate.