On trial for bribery, Samsung boss lets lawyers do the talking

Fri Apr 7, 2017 6:48am EDT
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By Joyce Lee

SEOUL (Reuters) - The third-generation leader of South Korea's top conglomerate was mostly silent at his first court appearance in what has been called the "trial of the century," as his lawyers labored to portray him as an innocent bystander in a graft scandal.

Jay Y. Lee, the 48-year-old boss of Samsung Group [SAGR.UL], is on trial on charges including bribery and embezzlement in a scandal that led to the ouster of President Park Geun-hye.

He could spend more than 20 years in jail if convicted on all charges, including one that he pledged 43 billion won in bribes to foundations backed by Park and her confidant, Choi Soon-sil.

"The defendant, Jay Y. Lee, didn't even know that the contribution was made, because that's not part of his job," his lawyer, Song Wu-cheol, told the court.

Lee had merely relayed the comments from one-on-one meetings with Park to his top lieutenant, Choi Gee-sung, he added.

Choi, a former Samsung Group vice chairman considered a mentor to Jay Y. Lee, the vice chairman of Samsung Electronics Co Ltd (005930.KS: Quote), left the conglomerate on March 1 after it dismantled its corporate strategy office - a nerve center long considered an instrument for the founding Lee family's management of the companies.

Lee appeared more gaunt in a white shirt and gray suit, having lost some of his C-suite polish. He was mostly expressionless at the trial, nodding occasionally when one of his attorneys reiterated his previous denials of bribe payments.

Beyond confirming personal details such as his name and occupation, Lee remained silent when the judge asked if he had anything to say in response to the charges he faces.   Continued...

Samsung Group chief Jay Y. Lee arrives at a court in Seoul, South Korea, April 7, 2017.   REUTERS/Kim Hong-Ji