South Korean prosecutors are seeking a nine-year sentence for Samsung Electronics vice chairman Lee Jae-Yong, in connection to bribes involving Choi Soon-sil, an acquaintance of former President Park Geun-hye. File Photo by Yonhap/EPA-EFE
Dec. 30 (UPI) -- Samsung Electronics vice chairman Lee Jae-Yong apologized during a bribery retrial for "debts owed" to the South Korean people, as local prosecutors seek a nine-year prison sentence for the de facto chief of Samsung Group.
Lee, who faced charges of stock manipulation in September and buried his father Lee Kun-hee in October, said Wednesday he has "received the most benefits" of society, MoneyToday reported. Lee is the richest man in the country by stock value.
Lee's bribery retrial comes after several court hearings that began in 2017, following the impeachment of former South Korean President Park Geun-hye.
Lee was sentenced to five years in prison that year for paying $27.4 million worth of bribes to receive under-the-table government assistance in securing control of Samsung Group from his father. In South Korea, family-controlled groups increasingly have come under fire for the practice of passing power to heirs.
Lee received a reduced and suspended prison sentence in 2018, but in 2019, South Korea's Supreme Court overturned the ruling, citing other bribes Lee used to curry favor with Choi Soon-sil, a powerful acquaintance of Park who was jailed 20 years for corruption.
Wednesday's retrial is revisiting allegations against Lee, who said he was "confused" after meeting with Park, according to Yonhap.
His father, Samsung chairman Lee Kun-hee, had collapsed at the time.
"I would never have acted like that," Lee Jae-yong said Wednesday.
South Korean prosecutors said the powers of Samsung must be reined in.
"Samsung is a group with overwhelming power, to the extent that people say our nation's businesses are either Samsung or non-Samsung," prosecutors said.
"For our society's wholesome development, Samsung's position is such that it should demonstrate a firm stance against corruption and set an example."
The Samsung heir ranks ahead of Chung Mong-koo, chairman of Hyundai Motor Group, in terms of stock value, local news network YTN reported Wednesday. Lee's shares in his company are worth $8.9 billion.