13 weeks into Samsung trial, no smoking gun

Seoul: The trial of Jay Y. Lee, the inheritor to the Samsung Group empire, has featured thousands of pages of files and masses of hours of testimony from dozens of witnesses. But specialists say one aspect is lacking: a smoking gun.

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The billionaire stands accused of paying bribes to South Korean President Park Geun-Hye, after which he has denied trying to hide fees. With the trial set to maintain for every other couple of months, the prosecution plans to name the nation’s former chief to testify because it seeks to prove Lee passed over millions of greenbacks to get a contentious merger authorized.

“its proper direct evidence is lacking to date,” said Hong Jung-spoke, a legal professional who formerly labored with the unique prosecution at some point of their initial probe of Lee. “The great option for prosecutors is to make their argument as convincing as viable based on the oblique evidence they have.”

Dubbed the “trial of the century” because of its link to a power-peddling scandal that introduced down the president and ensnared the united states of America’s most powerful agencies, hearings were marked by way of terse exchanges among prosecutors and the judge. Connecting the dots has been a time-eating attempt, extending beyond an initial May closing date for a verdict, with the prosecutors but to finish their case earlier than the defense team gets to provide theirs.

If the trial isn’t wrapped up by way of the quit of August, the six-month anniversary of Lee’s arrest, then the multi-millionaire, who’s also up of smartphone maker Samsung Electronics Co., must be let out in the absence of new costs.

Prosecutors allege Lee promised cash to an equestrian foundation controlled by using Park’s friend Choi Soon-soil. They said that the payoff changed into designed to relaxed government backing for the contentious 2015 merger of Samsung affiliates that helped cement his manipulate over the electronics enterprise. A former health minister has been convicted of abusing his energy throughout the deal.

Defense lawyers stated the merger was geared toward boosting its gadgets’ competitiveness and had nothing to do with succession. They also stated Park pressed Lee to fund the sports association without pronouncing it would gain Choi’s daughter, a competitive equestrian. The former president is status trial separately and has denied wrongdoing, as has her friend Choi.

The proof cited since the trial began in March is textual content messages from cellular telephones utilized by Samsung executives and hand-written notes via a former presidential secretary.

Those information display South Korea’s largest business enterprise liaised with senior authorities officials, which include regulators and presidential aides, on a variety of problems. Samsung even as soon as sought to steer officials via giving them brand-new Galaxy smartphones, in keeping with the written testimony of one govt.

Still, info of what Lee and Park discussed of their conferences from 2014 to 2016 were scant. While Lee hasn’t taken the stand, he acknowledged meeting with the previous president but denied any wrongdoing. His lawyers said Samsung’s communications with authorities passed off inside criminal boundaries and were a part of its ordinary activities.

The merger of Samsung C&T Corp. And Cheil Industries Inc. Squeaked via in 2015 over the objections of activist investor Paul Elliott Singer, who had argued it undervalued C&T.

The deal turned approved with the aid of Korea’s kingdom-run National Pension Service, a $450 billion fund with money from 22 million residents that had a stake in C&T massive sufficient to swing the deal in both courses.

Prosecutors have alleged that backing from the NPS took place because of the bribes. On 8 June, former minister for fitness and welfare Moon Hyung-pro became sentenced to 2-and-a-half years jail for abuse of electricity after he was convicted of pressuring the NPS into backing the merger. The pension carrier is overseen by way of the fitness ministry.

Both Lee and Park say they didn’t speak a lot of their meetings.

“Prosecutors face the double challenges of proving Samsung’s donations had been certainly a quid seasoned quo and that bribes paid to Choi are basically bribes paid to Park,” stated Kim Nam-Kuk, a legal professional at Seoul-based totally regulation firm Myung Hyun. “It’s no longer a smooth component to show. However, the threat of a conviction nonetheless exists given sturdy suspicions about why the government would defy such competition to vote in prefer of a debatable merger.”

The prosecution hasn’t completed providing its case, with Park and Lee yet to testify. In March, the former chief changed into eliminated from the workplace after lawmakers impeached her in December following months of protests over alleged corruption. She changed into indicted in April, with South Korea electing a new president the next month.

The felony battle over Lee at Seoul’s Central District Court has been closely monitored through South Korea’s media, and judge Kim Jin-dong, flanked by two junior justices, has convened hearings three instances almost every week, one among which stretched thru to 1 am.

Lee has ended up extra animated because the trial has worn on. Early sessions saw him sitting silently, staring straight beforehand without showing any emotion. On 25 May, he smiled on his way to the court, surrounded by a gaggle of press photographers, once you have a jail bus protecting a document. On 1 June, he flipped thru masses of pages of testimony and whispered to his legal professionals as prosecutors questioned witnesses across the aisle. In beyond weeks, Lee has even taken to surveying the court target market and started passing notes to his attorneys in reaction to prosecutors’ arguments.

When prosecutors closed an April presentation with remarks that Samsung may want to bribe everybody it wanted to, choose Kim delivered a rebuke that it had little to do with proving Lee and Park reached a deal once they met.

Jessica J. Underwood
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