Once an executive in a multi-million dollar company, Jay Y. Lee, the vice chairman of Samsung, is facing 12 years in prison if he is found guilty of charges against him. He is accused of bribing the former South Korean president Park Geun-hye to cement his control of the company.
Last Monday, Lee fought back tears as the prosecutor laid out his case against him. The son of chairman Lee Kun-hee who was hospitalized in 2014 and since has disappeared from public life, was the heir to the company.
“Even though Lee is the ultimate receiver of the gains [of the bribery], he has been pushing the blame on others accused,” according to the prosecutor, Park Young-soo.
If he is found guilty, Lee could be given the longest prison term on record for a South Korean executive. Choi Gee-sung, Samsung’s former corporate strategy officer, is also facing 10 years for his role in the scandal that led to the ousting of Park Geun-hye as president of South Korea.
Other charges against Lee include wrongfully transferring assets overseas, hiding the proceeds of a crime, and embezzlement to perjury.
The defense suggested that the prosecutor was fictionally constructing the case against Lee, and taking advantage “of the popular sentiment to get the conviction,” according to CNET.
The so call “trial of the century” in South Korea is catching the attention of many South Koreans who see it as a representation of the deeper changes needed in the country. The ousting of the former president came as a result of massive protests and popular anger towards the connivance between corporations with government to the loss of citizens.
As for company impact, shares of Samsung closed with a loss of 0.3 percent on the day of closing statements. The future of Samsung will depend on the capacity of the conglomerate to manage the crisis more than the conviction of Lee.
“[Samsung] is doing well now, but will his absence show up in its performance two, three, five years from now? That’s the question,” said Park Jung-hoon, fund manager at HDC Asset Management to CNBC.