Samsung heir Lee Jae-yong — known in the West as Jay Y. Lee — has won a presidential pardon by South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol, allowing the grandson of Samsung founder to resume leadership of the powerful conglomerate , Bloomberg reports. The pardon will be formalized on August 15.
The presidential pardon is reminiscent of the two given to Lee’s father, Lee Kun-hee, who was convicted of corruption and tax evasion in 1996 and 2008.
“In an effort to overcome the economic crisis by revitalizing the economy, Samsung Electronics Vice Chairman Lee Jae-yong, whose suspended jail term recently ended, will be reinstated,” the South Korean government said in a statement. a statement. Financial times.
The pardon is the latest twist in a bribery scandal that dates back to 2017, when Lee was accused of bribing then-President Park Geun-hye. The Samsung heir was initially sentenced to five years in prison after being found guilty of corruption, but served less than a year of his sentence before being released on appeal. He was then jailed again in January 2021 before being released again in August of that year on parole. In total, he served a year and a half of his 30-month sentence.
A presidential pardon is important because it opens the door to Lee taking over from the tech giant founded by his grandfather Lee Byung-Chul. Under Korean law, convicted criminals are not allowed to hold formal positions at a company such as Samsung for five years after their conviction. Bloomberg reports that Lee has continued to receive reports from the company without having an official title.
Samsung currently has no one to serve as chairman after Lee Kun-hee died in October 2020. But Bloomberg notes that the pardon opens the door for Lee to return and make key strategic decisions that are arguably necessary as the chaebol struggles with inflation, the instability caused by the war in Ukraine, supply chain problems caused by China’s Covid- lockdowns, and complications arising from escalating US-China relations.
Lee’s formal return to the company is seen as a potential source of stability, not to mention a potential politically popular one. as the Associated Press noted last year, about five million people in South Korea owned shares in Samsung, sparking widespread support for Lee’s release from prison. But critics say the grace is endemic of a cozy relationship between Korea’s business and political elite that borders on the corrupt, the Financial times notes.
“Thank you for giving me the opportunity to start over. I’m sorry to have worried many people,” Lee said in a statement. “I will try harder to give back to society and grow together.” But the businessman’s legal problems are far from over. over as he continues to face separate stock manipulation charges related to a merger of two Samsung subsidiaries.