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Samsung chair Lee Jae-yong found not guilty of charges connected to 2015 merger

Samsung Chairman Lee Jae-yong was acquitted Monday on charges related to the company's 2015 merger that made it South Korea's most powerful conglomerate and secured his line of succession to lead it. Photo by Yonhap/EPA-EFE

Samsung Chairman Lee Jae-yong was acquitted Monday on charges related to the company’s 2015 merger that made it South Korea’s most powerful conglomerate and secured his line of succession to lead it. Photo by Yonhap/EPA-EFE

Feb. 5 (UPI) — Samsung Electronics Chair Lee Jae-yong was found not guilty of numerous charges connected to a 2015 merger that made the company South Korea’s most powerful conglomerate.

The Seoul Central District Court acquitted Lee on charges of stock price rigging and other counts including breach of trust and accounting fraud in connection with the merger of Cheil Industries and Samsung C&T Corp., which allowed him to take managing control of the group at a cheaper price tag.

Lee was also found not guilty of being involved in alleged accounting fraud at Chiel subsidiary Samsung Biologics and 13 other Samsung executives were also acquitted on various charges involving the merger.

The ruling on Monday determined that the merger was not conducted with the sole purpose of securing his path to take over the company from his father Lee Kun-hee after he had a heart attack in 2014.

“It is difficult to see the merger of the two companies was solely for the purpose of Lee’s succession of management rights or strengthening his power,” a judge with the Seoul Central District Courts said in the ruling.

Lee had been indicted more than three years ago with prosecutors citing documents alleging Lee’s “predatory succession plan” which was detailed in a paper called “Project.G.” The judge dismissed the allegation, saying prosecutors failed to show how the document differentiated from normal business practices.

Lee had denied any wrongdoing and the court on Monday agreed.

“It is true that the Future Strategy Office led the merger but it is found that the office had a list of other plans that have not been carried out,” the judge said. “It is also hard to accept the prosecutors’ claim that the office strategically chose a bad time for the merger to create the greatest damages for shareholders.”

Prosecutors sought to imprison Lee for five years and fine him up to $375,000 on the charges.

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