The appellate court overturned several of the bribery verdicts passed on Lee in his primary trial, but upheld others, including the providing by Samsung of a racehorse to Choi's daughter, Jung Yoo-ra. The reason Lee's sentence was cut in half in the appeals court is due to the judges finding that Lee did not seek any help in return for the support. He has spent close to a year in detention and has been released for the next four years on probation. After a second round of questioning by the South Korean prosecutors, on April 11, 2008, Lee was quoted by reporters as saying, "I am responsible for everything".
Lee had been incarcerated for nearly a year since he was indicted.
Lee, along with four other Samsung executives, was accused of offering more than 7bn won in bribes to former South Korean president Park Geun-hye and her associate, Choi Soon-sil.
"We have a new president in office, but the "Republic of Samsung" lives on", said Kwon Young-june, a professor who researches corporate governance at Seoul's Kyung Hee University, according to Bloomberg. "It's startling to see that the practice of letting chaebol chiefs get away with suspended sentences is continuing".
Samsung did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the decision.
Samsung heir Lee Jae-yong is a free man. The Samsung heir was taken into custody on February 17, 2017.
The case led to months of mass protests and Park's eventual impeachment in December 2016.
The more lenient ruling surprised many who were expecting a tough stance from the appeals court.
The outrage spread into the streets of Seoul. "When a commoner commits a crime, there's no forgiveness, but for those with status and power, the entire system takes their side". The lower court had said Lee embezzled that amount from Samsung to bribe a confidante of Park's.
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Samsung vice chairman Jay Y. Lee has been released from prison following a successful appeal.
Reuters writes that the decision to reduce Lee's sentence sent shock waves through government and business circles in South Korea. "The essence of this case is that the defendant passively answered to political power".
The money was in exchange for backing the merger of two Samsung units which was deemed necessary so Lee could control the conglomerate.
Prosecutors of the case argued that Lee was aware of the relationship between the former president and her friend and chose this information to aid his deal.
Such claims were effectively undermined by Lee Jae-yong himself, who claimed in his trial previous year not to be actively involved in the running of his behemoth company.
Lee's verdict marked the first member of the family to be convicted and jailed, which had made citizens hopeful of the government to crackdown on corporations. Samsung C&T's stock rose 2.1 percent. Last week, it reported its biggest ever annual profit.
Samsung is South Korea's biggest conglomerate.
His team of 28 lawyers argued that Lee was a hands-off manager who had no knowledge of the arrangement, which they said was organized by his subordinates. "But the atmosphere is definitely more positive now as our team leaders look somewhat relaxed, and I think this will lead to good results in businesses, too".