The billionaire head of South Korea’s Samsung Group, Jay Y Lee, was jailed for five years for bribery.
After a six-month trial over a scandal that brought down the then president, Park Geun-hye, a court ruled that Lee had paid bribes in anticipation of favours from Park.
Lee, the 49-year-old heir to one of the world’s biggest corporate empires, has been held since February on charges that he bribed Park to help secure control of a conglomerate that owns Samsung Electronics, the world’s leading smartphone and chip maker, and has interests ranging from drugs and home appliances to insurance and hotels.
Earlier, South Korean TV followed him on his journey from a detention centre to the court. He emerged from a justice ministry bus in handcuffs, with white rope around his jacket, and carrying an envelope of documents.
South Korea’s new president, Moon Jae-in, who replaced the Park after a May 9 election, has pledged to rein in the chaebols, empower minority shareholders and end the practice of pardoning corporate tycoons convicted of white-collar crime.
Investors are concerned that his enforced absence will create a leadership vacuum at Samsung – which has dozens of affiliates and assets of $322bn (£250bn) – and harm its ability to make key strategic decisions.
Samsung appears to have been unaffected by Lee’s absence so far — he was detained in custody in February — with flagship subsidiary Samsung Electronics making record profits on the back of strong demand for its memory chips.