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How The Richest Person In South Korea Ended Up In Prison

The wealthiest person in South Korea is Jay Y. Lee. He is the Samsung family’s wealth’s heir. He’s currently incarcerated, so he is unable to spend any of that money at this time.

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The Samsung dynasty will be carried on by Jay Y. Lee. When he passed away in October 2020, his father Lee Kun-hee, the longtime Chairman of Samsung, had a net worth of $20 billion. Nearly half of the $20 billion would be swiftly devoured by South Korea’s 50% estate tax upon his passing. Jay Y. Lee received $7 billion of the remaining $10 billion as the only son and oldest child. Jay Y. Lee is now the richest individual in South Korea thanks to his $7 billion net worth. Sadly, he is currently unable to spend any of that money. Why? mostly because Jay Lee is incarcerated. This is not the first time either.

How did South Korea’s richest person find up behind bars?

This is a complicated tale involving corruption, theft, and a previous South Korean president.

Chung Sung-Jun/Getty Images

Images by Chung Sung-Jun/Getty

In 2015, Jay Lee was accused of paying bribes totaling $38 million USD to Park Geun-hye, the former president of South Korea, and her friend Choi Soon-sil. According to reports, Samsung was promised government advantages in exchange for the bribery. Technically, Samsung gave money to two charities under Choi Soon-supervision sil’s in order to enable the alleged bribes. The company also transferred millions to a German company controlled by Choi that financed her daughter’s equestrian training and her niece’s winter sports center.

The general South Korean population was incensed when these bribes were made public. President Park was removed from office due to impeachment. In the end, she was found guilty and given a 25-year prison term for corruption and abuse of authority.

Lee was found guilty of stealing money from Samsung, concealing assets abroad, making money from illegal operations, and lying under oath. Curiously, the court also determined that Lee was unable to refuse the former President’s plea for financial support for her acquaintance. As a result, he was in a sense forced to make the payments. Unfortunately, the court still found the Samsung heir guilty of facilitating more than $3 million in bribes for Choi’s daughter’s equestrian training as well as embezzling money from Samsung.

Jay Y. Lee was convicted guilty of corruption and given a five-year prison term on August 25, 2017.

His sentence was lowered to two and a half years on February 8, 2018, and he was released for time served.

Re-Arrest

Unfortunately for Lee, his legal issues didn’t finish in February 2018. The suspension of Lee’s sentence was rejected by South Korea’s Supreme Court in August 2019. The court also mandated that the entire case be retried. Prosecutors in the original case sought a 12-year sentence for Lee, so they were perturbed when he was given just five years and released after one year.

Lee received a sentence of two years, six months in jail on January 21, 2021. He’s currently serving his sentence at the Seoul Detention Center while he awaits the results of a retrial on the original charges. Lee is accused of stock manipulation and fraud. Lee allegedly paid the bribes in part to facilitate his promotion to chairman of Samsung, according to the prosecution.

The South Korean legal system has historically been highly tolerant toward people who commit white-collar crimes and employees of large businesses like Samsung. Because of Samsung’s extensive influence on everything from exports to health care, some South Koreans refer to their nation as the “Republic of Samsung.” A third of the value of the South Korean stock market is made up of just under 60 Samsung-related companies.