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Samsung heir sentenced to five years prison on graft conviction

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Jay Y Lee, vice chairman of Samsung Electronics, was convicted of bribery and sentenced to five years in prison, a blow to the heir apparent of the world's biggest maker of smartphones and memory chips.

[SEOUL] Jay Y Lee, vice chairman of Samsung Electronics, was convicted of bribery and sentenced to five years in prison, a blow to the heir apparent of the world's biggest maker of smartphones and memory chips.

Lee is guilty of bribery, perjury and embezzlement, a three-judge panel of Seoul Central District Court ruled on Friday.

The 49-year-old has been in detention since February and proclaimed his innocence throughout the trial.

Prosecutors had sought 12 years in prison.

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The ruling casts doubt over Lee's return to the conglomerate his grandfather founded almost 80 years ago and is now in a battle for smartphone supremacy with Apple Inc. Since his arrest in February, Samsung Electronics has bounced back from last year's exploding Note 7 fiasco to release a new flagship and post record earnings with its shares also reaching an all-time high.

Lee also joins the list of Korean business leaders to be convicted of corrupt behaviour, one that already includes his father Lee Kun Hee.

The elder Lee received a suspended three-year prison sentence for evading taxes and embezzling corporate money.

This year's case, dubbed the "Trial of the Century," transfixed the nation as it shone a spotlight on the interaction between South Korea's chaebol and the political elite.

Through hundreds of hours of testimony from dozens of witnesses, prosecutors sought to draw a link between backing from a state-run pension for a 2015 merger of Samsung affiliates and money paid to a confidante of then President Park Geun Hye, including an US$800,000 horse for the friend's daughter.

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