Samsung scion fights back as legal appeal begins
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[October 12, 2017]
By Joyce Lee
SEOUL (Reuters) - The heir to South Korea's
Samsung Group, convicted of bribing the country's former president,
appeared in a packed court on Thursday for the first day of arguments in
the appeal of his five-year jail term for corruption.
The 49-year-old Jay Y. Lee was convicted by a lower court in August of
bribing Park Geun-hye, who was dismissed as president in March.
The court decided the bribe helped Lee strengthen his control of the
crown jewel in the conglomerate, Samsung Electronics <005930.KS>, one of
the world's biggest technology companies.
The appellate court hearing the appeal is likely to try to rule on the
case by next February, legal experts said. Whichever side loses could
take the case to the Supreme Court, the final court of appeal in South
Lee's presence marked his first public appearance since the August
ruling. He did not speak during the proceedings other than giving his
birth date and address.
The lower court in August had ruled that while Lee never asked for
Park's help directly, the fact that a 2015 merger of two Samsung
affiliates did help cement Lee's control over Samsung Electronics
"implied" he was asking for the president's help to strengthen his
control of the firm.
Lee, sitting mostly expressionless in a dark suit without tie, listened
to hours-long PowerPoint presentations by both sides arguing over the
lower court's logic that Lee's actions "implied" solicitation for help
from Park by providing financial support for Park's close friend and
confidante Choi Soon-sil.
On Thursday, the defense strongly challenged that logic.
"In order for implied solicitation to exist, there needed to have been a
level of wordless understanding between Lee and the former president
that transcended speaking," said Lee In-jae, Jay Y. Lee's lead counsel.
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Samsung Electronics Vice Chairman, Jay Y. Lee, arrives at a court in
Seoul, South Korea, October 12, 2017. REUTERS/Kim Hong-Ji
The prosecution, which has lodged a cross-appeal against the lower court ruling
that found Lee innocent on some charges, said the court's decision to not
acknowledge explicit solicitation for Park's help from Samsung despite the
evidence found "did not make sense".
DEFENSE FIGHTS BACK
The defense, which spent much of its time during the initial trial refuting the
prosecution's individual charges, said it will focus on a few key arguments in
the appeal - including whether there was in fact an "ordinary type of bribery"
as defined under South Korean law, which says only civil servants come under the
Park's friend Choi was not a civil servant.
The lower court found that Samsung's financial support of 7.2 billion won ($6.27
million) to sponsor the equestrian career of Choi's daughter constituted an
ordinary type of bribery, as "it can be considered the same as she (Park)
herself receiving it."
The defense is expected to strongly challenge this by saying that the
prosecution, on whom the burden of proof lies, has not proved collusion between
Park and Choi.
The appeal hearing continues on Oct 19.
(Reporting by Joyce Lee; Additional reporting by Heekyong Yang; Editing by Neil
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