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As 'Trial Of The Century' Begins, Samsung Group Chief Denies All Charges

As 'Trial Of The Century' Begins, Samsung Group Chief Denies All Charges
As prosecutors try to prove the billionaire conspired to funnel millions of dollars to a confidante of President Park Geun-hye to help secure control of the world’s largest smartphone maker, on Thusday, the  trial of Samsung  Electronic Co. vice chairman Jay Y. Lee started
An outrage over “chronic corruption” in ties between government and family-run conglomerates was raised and leading to Park’s impeachment is the trial of Lee who is the highest-profile business figure indicted in the sprawling corruption investigation. Given his global profile and the amounts of money involved, the legal contest surrounding Lee has been called South Korea’s “trial of the century” by Special Prosecutor Park Young-soo.
Lee will fight charges from bribery to embezzlement during hearings in the case at Seoul’s Central District Court which are set to last up to three months. Whether a controversial 2015 merger that made it easier for Lee to control the Samsung Group chaebol was helped by Samsung’s donations to entities led by Park’s friend, Choi Soon-sil, and whether that was intended to win government backing for the merger will be the biggest point of contention.
“Proving there was an exchange of money for favors is going to be challenging,” said Hong Jung-seok, a lawyer who worked for the special prosecution until the end of last month. “The trial will draw attention from around the world, not just for the defendant’s fame abroad, but also for the size of the alleged bribe.”
With Lee’s lawyers and prosecutors appearing before presiding judge Lee Yeong-hun,  the preliminary hearing Thursday lasted about an hour. Every step of the case will be contentious. The 47-year-old judge agreed to the prosecutors who objected the hearing was supposed to cover only the basics of the trial as Lee’s lawyers tried to show a PowerPoint presentation.
Because the special prosecutor was helped during the hearing by regular state prosecutors, defense lawyers then disputed the legitimacy of their opponents.
With some of the country’s most powerful figures under scrutiny several miles apart, these are strange days in Seoul. In a ruling almost certain to provoke protests whatever the outcome, a constitutional court will decide at 11 a.m. Friday whether to uphold Park’s impeachment and remove her from office. And as protests spring up regularly under the watch of police in riot gear, he scandal has already engulfed the streets of Korea’s capital for months.
The complex web of ties through which the chaebol that control Korea’s economy allegedly trade money for political favors will be probed by prosecutors in trying to prove the case against Lee. Park’s investigation has already ensnared establishment figures from the president of a prestigious university to the head of the country’s horseback-riding association ad has led to about 30 indictments. They have been accused of easing Choi’s daughter’s college admission and equestrian lessons.
If she is convicted, Lee faces five years to life in prison. With each court taking up to two months to deliberate, Lee can turn to an appellate court and then the Supreme Court if he loses under South Korea’s three-tier judiciary system. Thanks to government pardons, despite two previous criminal convictions, Lee’s own father avoided jail time.
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Christopher J. Mitchell

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