J.Y. Lee, Chief of South Korea’s Samsung Business Empire, Is Sent to Prison

SEOUL, South Korea — ​The Seoul High Court ​sentenced Samsung’s top leader, Lee Jae-yong, to ​two and a half years in prison on Monday for bribing South Korea’s former president, Park Geun-hye​.

Mr. Lee’s case must go to the Supreme Court before it is formally closed. In South Korea, the Supreme Court can either endorse a lower court’s ruling on a case or send it back for a retrial. It cannot overrule a lower court’s sentence.

When Mr. Lee’s case first reached the Supreme Court in 2019, the court returned it to the Seoul High Court for retrial, saying that it had underestimated the amount of bribes Mr. Lee paid to Ms. Park and her secretive confidante, Choi Soon-sil, while Ms. Park was in power. It said the amount should be 8.6 billion won ($7.8 million, not 3.6 billion, as the lower court had found.

In its ruling on Monday, the Seoul High Court accepted 8.6 billion won as the correct amount, as instructed by the Supreme Court. Its decision to do so meant that it was all but a done deal that the Supreme Court would endorse the ruling.

Mr. Lee already spent one year in jail after being arrested by prosecutors in 2017 in connection to the bribery case. He is now expected to only spend one and a half years in prison with time served, taking him away from the day-to-day management of one of the world’s most valuable tech giants.

​After the court issued its sentence on Monday, Mr. Lee was immediately arrested in the courtroom so he could start serving his time.

J.Y. Lee, Chief of South Korea's Samsung Business Empire, Is Sent to Prison