Samsung Vice Chairman Lee Jae-yong leaves the Seoul detention house after an appeals court halved his sentence and suspended it on Feb. 5, 2018.

Supreme court to rule on Lee in May at earliest

The Supreme Court is unlikely to come up with a verdict on an appeal by Samsung Vice Chairman Lee Jae-yong, the de-facto head of Korea’s biggest business conglomerate, this month.

Initially, the top court was expected to make a ruling on the influence-peddling scandal involving the scion on April 25 because the 13-member justice panel finished hearings earlier this month.

But the case is very complicated, which prompted the judges to further discuss it, according to legal experts.

The website of the Supreme Court also does not show any schedule regarding Lee’s case on April 25, yet.

In 2017, Lee was indicted for allegedly offering bribes to former President Park Geun-hye and her confidante Choi Soon-sil in return for their help in beefing up his control over Samsung.

A Seoul district court sentenced Lee, the only son of bed-ridden Samsung Chairman Lee Kun-hee, to five years in prison midway through 2017. But he was set free in 2018 after an appeals court halved his sentence and suspended it.

Three options of top court

It remains to be seen how the Supreme Court will rule on the case and there are three options, according to experts.

The first is that the top court does not overturn anything. Then, the appellate court’s verdict will be confirmed, and Lee will not be returned to jail.

The second is that it overturns the verdict and urges the appeals court to make a new decision. Then, the 51-year-old businessman could again face imprisonment, but only after the new ruling of the appeals court.

The final one would be worst for Lee and Samsung. The Supreme Court can overturn the previous ruling and make a final decision on its own. That means that Lee runs the risk of again being on the wrong side of the bars immediately after the top court’s decision, possibly next month.

As the Supreme Court rarely follows the final option, the chances are that Lee will be able to lead Samsung for the time being. But until a final ruling, he would be still sweating it out.


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