A South Korean court has sentenced the billionaire Samsung heir to five years in prison for bribery and other crimes that fed public anger leading to the ouster of Park Geun-hye as South Korea's president. The Seoul Central District Court said Friday that Lee Jae-yong, 49, was guilty of offering bribes to the former president and her close friend to get government support for efforts to cement his control over the Samsung empire. A panel of three judges also found him guilty of embezzling Samsung funds, hiding assets overseas, concealing profit from criminal acts, and perjury, the AP reports. Prosecutors had asked for 12 years. The verdict is a stunning downfall for a princeling of South Korea's richest family.
Lee was accused of offering $38 million in bribes to four entities controlled by Choi Soon-sil, a friend of Park, in exchange for government help with a merger that strengthened Lee's control over Samsung at a crucial time. Samsung has not denied transferring corporate funds. But Lee, vice chairman at Samsung Electronics and the Samsung founder's grandson, claimed innocence during the court hearing. He said he was unaware of the foundations or the donations, which were overseen by other executives. The ruling in Lee's case can be appealed twice. Park was removed from office in March. She and Choi are both currently on trial. (Read more Samsung stories.)