SEOUL, South Korea, Feb. 5 (UPI) -- The Seoul High Court has issued a suspended sentence for Samsung Electronics' de-facto leader Lee Jae-yong, who stood trial on charges of bribing former President Park Geun-hye's longtime friend Choi Soon-sil to secure his grip over the company.
On Monday, the court handed Lee a two-and-a-half year prison term after a probation of four years, overruling a lower court's decision last August to slap him with a five-year sentence.
The panel ruled that providing Choi's daughter the free use of rental horses, as well as a transfer of some $3.3 mil. to Choi's consultancy firm were acts of bribery.
However, the judges decided to drop initial charges that he'd illegally diverted funds overseas and used $ 1.4 mil. of Samsung's corporate funds to support Choi's Korea Winter Sports Elite Center.
Lee had pleaded not guilty to the allegation that he'd offered bribes with Samsung's funds to strengthen his control over the company and take over the company from his father Chairman Lee Kun-hee.
The ruling means that Lee is released from prison on appeal some 353 days after he was detained.
The mitigated ruling comes as a surprise to many as prosecutors had sought a 12-year prison term for the business mogul.