The billionaire head of South Korea's Samsung Group, Jay Y. Lee, was jailed for five years for bribery on Friday in a watershed for the country's decades-long economic order dominated by powerful, family-run conglomerates. Ivor Bennett reports.
The downfall is complete. Jay Y Lee, the billionaire head of South Korea's Samsung Group - one of the world's biggest corporate empires - on his way to prison for five years. It's being seen as a watershed moment - for the man, the company and the country as a whole. (SOUNDBITE) (ENGLISH) JASPER LAWLER, SENIOR MARKET ANALYST, LONDON CAPITAL GROUP, SAYING: "I think it's a great thing for democracy in South Korea and hopefully over time it moves to an area of greater transparency, a little bit less of a sliding door between business and government and you know that would be a good thing for the kind of business culture within South Korea." The 6-month trial concludes a scandal that even brought down the president A court ruling that Lee had bribed South Korea's former leader to help secure control of a conglomerate that owns Samsung electronics, the world's leading smartphone maker. Charges he still denies. (SOUNDBITE) (Korean) LAWYER OF VICE CHAIRMAN OF SAMSUNG ELECTRONICS JAY Y. LEE, SONG WU-CHEOL, SAYING: "As a lawyer, I cannot accept any of the legal judgments or the fact-finding in the ruling. We will make an appeal immediately, and we are confident the ruling will be overturned." Prosecutors had demanded a 12-year jail sentence, since Lee also faced charges of embezzlement and perjury Some have suggested he got off lightly, because of Samsung's importance to the economy. But the impact on the company could still be severe. (SOUNDBITE) (ENGLISH) JASPER LAWLER, SENIOR MARKET ANALYST, LONDON CAPITAL GROUP, SAYING: "I think it could actually have a direct impact on the revenues of Samsung here because other business will just, and government, will feel less inclined to do business with them." But investors fears, of a leadership vacuum, appeared somewhat muted Shares in Samsung Electronics falling 1 percent on the news.