Heir to South Korea’s Samsung Empire Avoids Jail

A South Korean Court has rejected an arrest warrant for the heir to the legendary Samsung Group conglomerate in connection with a controversial merger.   Prosecutors have accused Lee Jae-yong, the vice chairman of Samsung Electronics, of stock manipulation and illegal trading involving the 2015 merger of two Samsung affiliates, Samsung C&T and Cheil Industries, of which Lee is the largest shareholder.  He allegedly sought to inflate the value of Cheil Industries and lower the value of Samsung C&T to give him a bigger stake in the merged company, a move that would give him increasing control of South Korea’s largest conglomerate and smooth the transition from his ailing father, Lee Kun-hee, who suffered a heart attack in 2014.    But the Seoul Central District Court ruled Tuesday that while prosecutors had amassed enough evidence against Lee in their investigation, there was not enough to justify detaining him.   The 51-year-old Lee arrived at the courthouse Monday for the hearing, which lasted nine hours, and awaited the decision at a detention center.      Samsung released a statement last week denying the allegations against Lee, who prosecutors have also accused of inflating the value of Samsung Biologics, a subsidiary of Cheil Industries.    Lee is also awaiting a retrial on his original 2017 conviction for bribing a confidante of then-President Park Geun-hye in return for Park’s support for the 2015 merger, a scandal that forced Park out of office and eventually landed her in prison. Lee served a year in prison before an appeals court suspended his sentence, but South Korea’s Supreme Court overturned the lower court’s decision last year.   

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