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Samsung chief Lee Jae-yong returns to prison for bribery

The leader of the country's largest conglomerate has been in and out of court since 2017.

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Jay Y. Lee
Samsung Vice Chairman Jay Y. Lee at Seoul Central District Court. Jan. 18, 2021
(Chung Sung-Jun/Getty Images)
Updated: January 18, 2021 - 8:16am

The chief of the Samsung business empire, Lee Jae-yong, returned to prison Monday for the crime of bribing a former South Korean president, Park Gyun-hye, who was impeached in 2016 on corruption charges.

Lee was sentenced Monday, though he was already serving in prison at the time for other charges related to the case. He was sentenced to 36 months in prison, of which he will serve 18. Lee has already spent a year in prison on charged related to the case.

When presented with the opportunity to make a final statement, Lee told the judge, "Your Honor, I have nothing to say." 

Lee is also currently facing charges related to stock manipulating and unfair trading. 

Samsung is the largest of several South Korean family-controlled conglomerates, know as a chaebol, that helped rebuild the country following the Korean War. They also account for a majority of the country's economy.

"It’s deeply regrettable that Samsung, our country’s best business and a global innovative giant we are proud of, has been implicated in crimes whenever there was a new government," the judge said at Monday's sentencing.  

Lee Kun-hee, the father of Lee Jae-yong, who died last year and ran Samsung for many decades until 2014, was convicted on bribery and corruption charges on two separate occasions, though he never served a prison sentence. The elder Lee's ability to skirt sentencing led many South Koreans to believe that the inner circle of Samsung executives were virtually untouchable.

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