Lee Jae-yong is the billionaire heir who runs one of the most powerful companies in tech—and on Friday, he was convicted of corruption.
The Samsung Group vice chairman is effectively the chairman of the company because his father (the chairman) is in a coma, but now Lee’s been sentenced to five years behind bars.
We pulled out four wild details from the case, below.
Bribing the president
Lee’s grandfather founded Samsung, and his father, the current chairman, is in a coma. Lee has served as de facto chairman for some time now, but it wasn’t a given that he would make the transition official.
To secure his spot, the family wanted to use Cheil, a company under the Samsung Group umbrella, to buy Samsung C&T. That would give the family greater control over Samsung Group, making it more sensible that he should become the next chairman.
The deal happened, but it never made much sense for Samsung C&T on paper. Samsung C&T announced its sale to Cheil for way less than it was worth—but it made sense for the Lee family, and they wanted it done. So, how to convince the government to let it slide?
Lee and other Samsung executives were accused of paying millions in bribes to organizations and associates of a friend of recently ousted President Park Geun-hye. That friend, Choi Soon-sil, is a longtime confidant of Park. The deal implicit in that money: we give you cash, the president will approve this consolidation.
Bribing with horses
Part of those bribes, just FYI, went toward buying horses for Choi’s daughter, who was training to be an equestrian in Germany, then was arrested in Denmark and extradited to South Korea.
This isn’t Samsung’s first run-in with bribery claims
After the Korean War, the South Korean government did what it could to shelter home-grown businesses, allowing them to grow the nation’s economy. The strategy worked, but it also created a class of family-centric businesses called chaebol that mostly didn’t have to worry about consequences from shady deals.
Samsung is a prime example.
Lee Kun-hee, the father of the vice chairman, was twice convicted of bribery. He, however, got a presidential pardon. South Korean political winds have shifted, and his son is not likely to receive the same.
Lee could still run Samsung from jail
Lee would not be the first South Korean business titan to run the ship from behind bars. Lee’s trial isn’t over, which means he’ll be spending his days in a detention center, where he’s allowed a 30-minute visit at least six days a week from someone who isn’t necessarily a lawyer. He can also try to get approval from officials at the detention center that would allow him to have even more meetings at which he could take phone calls, according to Reuters.
Doing so, it seems, would require considerable loyalty from other Samsung executives.