In an unexpected decision, the Seoul High Court significantly reduced the lower court’s ruling and rejected most bribery charges pressed against Lee by prosecutors who sought a 12-year prison term.
The appeals court said Lee was unable to reject the then-president’s request to financially support her confidante Choi Soon-sil and was forced to make the payment. The court found Lee still guilty of giving 3.6 billion won ($3.3 million) in bribery for the equestrian training of Choi’s daughter.
Attorney Lee Injae, who is the Samsung heir’s lawyer, told reporters outside the court that while he respects the court’s courage and wisdom, he will still bring the decision to the Supreme Court, the final court of appeal in South Korea, to fight the conviction. Prosecutors were expected to appeal the case to the Supreme Court as well.
Lee, 49 and the only son of Samsung’s ailing chairman, was given a five-year prison term in August on bribery and other charges linked to a political scandal that took down former South Korean President Park Geun-hye.
The Samsung vice chairman pleaded not guilty to charges that he used Samsung corporate funds to bribe Park and a confidante, seeking to consolidate his control over Samsung and facilitate a smooth transfer of corporate leadership from his father.