SEOUL • The jailed de facto leader of the giant Samsung group was tried yesterday for an allegedly manipulated takeover in proceedings that effectively brought South Korea’s system of conglomerate control under control.
Samsung – whose flagship subsidiary is one of the world’s largest manufacturers of smartphones and computer chips – is by far the largest of the family-controlled empires, known as the chaebols, which dominate the activities of the 12th economy. global.
Chaebol families often have only a small stake in their empires, but retain control through complex networks of cross-ownership between units.
Lee Jae-yong, vice president of Samsung Electronics and grandson of the group’s founder, is charged with stock manipulation, breach of trust and other offenses in the merger of two other subsidiaries, Samsung C&T and Cheil Industries, in 2015.
A court spokesperson confirmed to AFP that Lee was in court.
He was Cheil’s largest shareholder and critics say Samsung has sought to artificially lower C&T’s price to give it a greater stake in the merged entity – a key part of the Samsung structure – solidifying its hold over the conglomerate. before his father’s last death. year.
He is already serving a 21/2 year prison sentence for corruption, embezzlement and other offenses linked to a corruption scandal that brought down South Korean President Park Geun-hye.
Lee’s father, Samsung chairman Lee Kun-hee, passed away in October, leaving his heirs with a vast fortune and an inheritance tax bill of around 13 trillion won ($ 15.5 billion), the first installment being due by the end of the month.
Samsung is essential to the economic health of South Korea and is active in industries ranging from construction to health to insurance.
But Mr. Vladimir Tikhonov, professor of Korean studies at the University of Oslo, told AFP: “The most problematic aspect is the attempt to keep the dynastic regime unchallenged over a company responsible for more than 20 years. % of South Korean GDP.
“Samsung’s main stakeholders are its shareholders, including smaller ones, its workers and South Korean society as a whole,” he said. “It’s too big to be dynastic property.”
The trial was originally scheduled to start last month, but was delayed when Lee underwent emergency surgery for appendicitis.
He apologized last May for certain governance problems within the group, pledging to ensure that “there will be no more controversy over the succession” and not to allow his children to succeed him. within the cabinet.
FRANCE MEDIA AGENCY