The Seoul High Court found Lee guilty of bribery, embezzlement and concealment of criminal proceeds worth about 8.6 billion won (S$10.35 million), and said the independent compliance committee Samsung set up early previous year has yet to become fully effective.
A South Korean court on Monday sentenced Samsung Electronics' vice chairman Jay Lee to two and a half years in prison, which will have major ramifications for his leadership of the tech giant as well as South Koreans' views toward big business. In August 2019, the Supreme Court of Korea found issue with the appeals court ruling and remanded the case to the appeals court for a retrial.
Choi is serving an 18-year prison sentence.
Wearing a mask and black suit and tie, Lee was taken into custody following the ruling.
Lee, 52, was sentenced in 2017 to five years in prison for offering $7 million in bribes to Park and her longtime friend Choi Soon-sil.
The news comes on the heel of Samsung's announcements that it will be pouring over a hundred billion dollars into next-gen chipset, display, and 5G equipment, meaning to take on TSMC, get an early lead in foldable phones, and capitalize on Huawei's decimation by blacklisting.
With this sentence, Lee will be sidelined for the time being from major decision-making at Samsung Electronics as it strives to overtake competitors. An independent counsel probe into the presidential scandal started in December 2016 following Park's impeachment by the National Assembly earlier that month.
It said the money that Samsung spent to purchase three racehorses used by Choi's equestrian daughter and fund a winter sports foundation run by Choi's niece also should be considered bribes. Lee was freed immediately after that ruling.
However, the Supreme Court subsequently ordered a retrial.
The attorney said that he will consider appealing to the Supreme Court after reviewing the ruling.
With Lee returning to jail, the year he already served in detention is expected to count toward the sentence. The Criminal Act, however, allows a judge to use his or her own discretion to reduce a prison term. Lee's legal troubles aren't over as he faces a separate trial over a controversial 2015 merger that helped him tighten control over the company.
The committee seemed to have limited and somewhat vague authority to clean up potential corporate wrongdoing, the court said. It remains to be seen if Lee will appeal the ruling since the Supreme Court will likely uphold the latest high court decision. "This case is part of the [former president's] corruption scandal, but it is also a bribery and embezzlement case in which Samsung's top management also got involved". After a 21-month probe, prosecutors concluded that Lee and other top executives broke laws during the merger of Samsung C&T and Cheil Industries in 2015. Lee will have to attend hearings in that case from jail.