South Korean PM to recommend presidential pardon for Samsung's Lee Jae-yong

A file photo taken on Oct 25, 2019 shows Samsung vice-chairman Lee Jae-yong leaving a high court in Seoul. PHOTO: REUTERS

SEOUL (REUTERS) - South Korea's Prime Minister Han Duck-soo said on Wednesday (July 27) he would recommend to the president a pardon for Lee Jae-yong, vice-chairman of the world's biggest memory chip maker, Samsung Electronics.

Lee, heir to the world's second-largest contract chip maker, was convicted of bribery and embezzlement in January last year but got parole in August, after serving 18 months of a sentence of 30 months.

Responding to a question in Parliament whether he would recommend that President Yoon Suk-yeol review pardons for key business leaders, including Lee, Mr Han said he would.

If Mr Yoon agrees, the pardon could come around the time of South Korea's Independence Day on Aug 15, when they are traditionally handed out.

With Lee's prison term set to end on Friday, such a pardon would be largely symbolic, though it would let the tycoon carry out business activities more freely.

Mr Yoon declined to respond to reporters' queries on the topic last week.

Since Lee's parole, key Samsung moves have included choosing Texas for the US location of a new US$17 billion (S$23.6 billion) chip plant, the merger of its mobile and consumer electronics divisions and new co-chief executives in its biggest reshuffle since 2017.

Lee still faces a separate trial over accusations of accounting fraud regarding an US$8 billion merger of two Samsung firms in 2015.

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