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Samsung Boss To Be Released From Prison This Week

Samsung Electronics Co. Vice Chairman Jay Y. Lee is set to be released from prison this week; he has been serving a stretch after being found guilty of bribery charges.

However, his freedom could be short lived as he is facing new charges which if he is found guilty could see him back inside a South Korean jail.

Lee will be released from prison Friday just in time for the release of new Samsung watches and a series of folding Galaxy smartphones, after a justice ministry committee recommended that he receive parole, marking a dramatic reversal for South Korea’s political and business landscape ahead of a presidential election early next year.

Lee has served a total of 18 months as he was given a two-and-half year jail term for bribery and embezzlement. The Seoul High Court ruled that Lee embezzled 8.7 billion won ($7.6 million) of corporate funds to bribe former President Park Geun-hye in 2015 to smooth his corporate succession process. That trial was part of a corruption scandal which ousted Park in 2017.

He has already served 18 months in prison.

In the new case Prosecutors argue the 2015 $8 billion merger of two Samsung companies — Samsung C&T Corp and Cheil Industries — involved unlawful activities aimed at cementing Lee’s control of the conglomerate.

He was indicted in September 2020, accused of unfair transactions and manipulation of market prices under the Capital Markets Act, breach of trust during the course of business, and false disclosure and accounting fraud under the External Audit Act.

Lee has denied the accusations and his lawyers have argued that the merger and its terms fell within the normal scope of business decisions.

Shortly after he was imprisoned the technology market faced a supply crunch in the global semiconductor industry and Samsung’s role in facilitating a Covid-19 vaccine deal with the U.S. fanned calls from business leaders and politicians to free the de-facto head of South Korea’s largest conglomerate and chipmaker so that he could make decision re Samsung’s investment in new technology and manufacturing plants.

Lee’s return to the helm at Samsung could expedite key initiatives, such as a $19 billion investment plan in the U.S. or major mergers and acquisitions.

The company has announced plans to build an advanced chipmaking plant in the U.S., in hopes of winning more US clients and narrowing the gap with industry leader Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co.

Its pledge to build a U.S. manufacturing base had helped facilitate Samsung Biologics Co.’s deal to manufacture Moderna vaccines which are set to be rolled out in Australia shortly.

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