Samsung chief Lee Jae-Yong pleased guilty to a charge of unlawful use of a controlled substance in a Seoul court amid ongoing legal troubles.
In August, the embattled heir to Samsung was let out of prison on parole following a bribery conviction with the government judging his release to be in the “national interest” because of the company’s plans to build a US factory which will help to ease a global computer chip shortage.
Today, a short hearing was held at Seoul Central District Court during which Lee admitted he had received sedative propofol, which is used in anaesthesia, dozens of times between 2015 and 2020. He took the drug under the guise of receiving treatment for his skin.
“This matter originated as for treatment, but I am deeply regretful,” Lee said. “I will … make sure that this does not happen again,” he told the court.
According to Lee’s lawyer the business magnate originally sought treatment due to psychological pressure after his father’s hospitalisation in 2014, his stress only intensified during the subsequent graft scandal and trial that led to his conviction.
The ruling is due to be given in two weeks time and Lee will likely face fines totalling 87m won (£53k). Staff at the skincare clinic where Lee received the sedative will also be tried for their role in aiding unlawful substance abuse.
Samsung’s legal strife
Lee’s previous conviction for bribery was a catalyst for the collapse of the former South Korean government.
Lee was found guilty of bribing Park Geun-hye, the country’s former president, who was impeached and remains in jail for corruption. While Lee was initially sentenced to five years imprisonment in August 2017 he was released after just one year.
He was sent back to jail this year during a retrial, but the Justice Ministry once again granted him early release in August as the business community clamoured for his release.
Not only does Samsung, which was set up by Lee’s grandfather in 1938, accounts for almost a fifth of South Korea’s stock market value, but the company also reportedly plans to build a $17bn US chip manufacturing factory in Texas.