Samsung just dodged a bullet… for a while, anyway. A South Korean court has dismissed a warrant to arrest the company’s Vice Chairman and de facto leader, Lee Jae-yong, in an investigation alleging that Samsung paid the President’s scandal-ridden confidant to illegally secure approval for a merger. There’s just not enough evidence to suggest that an arrest is needed, according to the judge. While this doesn’t guarantee that Lee is completely off the hook, he won’t have to worry about jail time in the foreseeable future.
It’s not certain whether or not prosecutors will try again — they’d likely have to establish a stronger link between Lee and the payments, assuming there is one, before giving it another try. Lee has always denied doing anything wrong.
Samsung is definitely breathing easier. The electronics giant is all too well-known for a leadership structure that revolves around the Lees, and an arrest (let alone a conviction) risked throwing that corporate order into disarray. And when Samsung is a major part of the South Korean economy, any uncertainty around its future could jeopardize the country as well. Critics of the company won’t be happy, however. Do you recall how Lee’s father, Lee Kun-hee, was pardoned from a tax evasion conviction to help secure the 2018 Winter Olympics? There’s no proof that Jae-yong got off easy, but opponents may well suggest that the court is refusing to touch a similarly powerful figure.