Most chaebol scandals have stemmed from the families’ attempts to ensure that the next generation inherits control, such as arranging for scions to buy shares of subsidiaries at discounted prices.
Mr. Lee’s legal troubles began when massive protests in Seoul led to the 2016 impeachment of former President Park Geun-hye on charges of collecting or seeking bribes from Samsung and other chaebol and for abusing her power. Ms. Park was jailed in 2017 and pardoned and released in 2022.
Mr. Lee was arrested in 2017 on charges of bribing Ms. Park and her confidante, Choi Soon-sil, to win the government’s support for a 2015 merger of two Samsung subsidiaries at the center of the corruption scandal. He was the vice chairman of Samsung Electronics at the time.
Prosecutors had said the merger was a step in Mr. Lee’s effort to transfer the control of Samsung from his father, Lee Kun-hee, who was incapacitated by a heart attack in 2014 and had been twice convicted and pardoned of bribery and tax evasion years before. A New York-based hedge fund, Elliott Management, launched a campaign urging shareholders to vote against the merger. But the country’s National Pension Service, which was a major shareholder of one of the subsidiaries, voted in favor of the merger in return for Mr. Lee’s bribes, prosecutors said.
A Seoul district court in 2017 sentenced Mr. Lee to five years in prison for offering 8.9 billion won in bribes to Ms. Park and to Ms. Choi.