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South Korea Prosecutors’ Appeal Against Samsung Electronics Chief Acquittal Begins

At the start of this week, a South Korean high court began hearing a prosecution appeal against a ruling by a lower court that was in favour of Samsung Electronics chairman Lee Jae-yong.

In February, a Seoul district court found Lee not guilty on all 19 charges brought against him relating to stock price manipulation and accounting fraud.

The charges for which prosecutors were seeking a jail term of five years relate to 2020. State prosecutors accused Lee of fraud over a merger between Samsung Group companies Cheil Industries and Samsung C&T in 2015 to smooth corporate succession from his ailing father, Lee Kun-hee, who has since then died.

Shim Gi-ho, one of the prosecutors, said the prosecution found the lower court’s decision “difficult to accept” and proposed bringing 11 witnesses to the stand in the appeal, reported Nikkei Asia.

Lawyers for Lee and other defendants opposed the proposal, arguing that the witnesses were neither independent from the case nor likely to reveal new facts.

Samsung Electronics Chairman Lee Jae-yong poses with workers. (Pic courtesy of Nikkei Asia and Samsung)

Baik Kang-jin, the presiding judge, said the prosecution would have to present sufficient reasons for him to accept the request to call new witnesses.

The judge scheduled the next preparatory hearing for July 22.

Lee is a powerful figure in South Korea’s elite business circles and even met Chinese Premier Li Qiang on Sunday in Seoul. At the meeting, Li is reported to have told Lee that China welcomed further investment by Samsung.

Lee has already served a one-and-a-half year prison sentence for another case relating to bribing former South Korea President Park Geun-hye to pressure the state pension fund to support the merger of Cheil Industries and Samsung C&T. He was subsequently pardoned by President Yoon Suk Yeol in 2022.

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