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Samsung Electronics Vice-Chair Jay Y. Lee received a presidential pardon Friday for his role in a 2016 political scandal, a move the South Korean government says is necessary so the country’s largest chaebol can help steady the national economy.
“In a bid to overcome the economic crisis by vitalizing the economy, Samsung Electronics Vice Chairman Lee Jae-yong… will be reinstated,” the Korean government stated in a joint press release from its ministries, according to Bloomberg News.
Lee, 54, known as Lee Jae-yong in Korea, was arrested in February 2017 on charges that he was complicit in Samsung paying millions in bribes to various organizations tied to a presidential advisor. The bribes were intended to win favor for an $8 billion proposed merger of two Samsung Group units. In August 2017, Lee was convicted of perjury, embezzlement, hiding assets outside the country, and being one of five Samsung executives who paid $6.4 million in bribes to ex-South Korean President Park Geun-hye.
The swift trial and fall from grace didn’t last long. Lee’s sentence was halved at an appeal hearing in February 2018, and key bribery and embezzlement charges were “suspended,” allowing him to leave prison after just six months. A National Assembly member at the time said that the ruling “confirmed once again that Samsung is above the law and the court.”
In early 2021, Lee’s appeals resulted in a new trial, which sentenced him to 30 months. Lee was granted parole in August 2021 after serving 18 of 30 months. Now those charges are gone.
according to CNBC.
One of Lee’s first projects could be finalizing a $17 billion chip plant that Samsung wants to build in Taylor, Texas, capitalizing on ample US funding available for domestic chip production. Analysts also said they expect Samsung to move quicker and more decisively on research, acquisition, and broader strategies.
“I am deeply grateful for the opportunity to make a new start,” Lee stated in a release after his pardon. “I will work hard to fulfill my responsibility as an entrepreneur.”