Jay Y. Lee received a presidential pardon for his role in a 2016 political scandal. Lee, 54, was arrested in February 2017 on charges that he was complicit in Samsung paying millions in bribes. The bribes were intended to win favor for an $8 billion proposed merger of two Samsung Group units.

In August 2017, Lee was convicted of perjury, embezzlement, hiding assets outside the country, and being one of five Samsung executives who paid $6.4 million in bribes to ex-South Korean President Park Geun-hye. Lee's sentence was halved at an appeal hearing in February 2018, allowing him to leave prison after just six months. Lee was granted parole in August 2021 after serving 18 of 30 months.

While on parole, Lee could not officially take up employment, though it was clear he maintained his stature in the family business. Lee joined South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol in providing President Biden a tour of a Samsung chip facility in May. Lee received reports on Samsung's business, even if he was not able to act on them.

Lee Kun-hee was never formally arrested or serving jail time for bribery, tax evasion, and breach of trust charges. Lee is free to officially take the reins at Samsung. Also pardoned this week was Shin Dong-bin, chairman of Lotte Group, South Korea's fifth-largest family-run conglomerate.

The pardon was also transparently focused on shoring up the economy against inflation, supply chain crises, and global tensions. One of Lee's first projects could be finalizing a $17 billion chip plant that Samsung wants to build in Taylor, Texas, capitalizing on ample US funding available for domestic chip production.
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