Jailed Samsung heir vows support for compliance committee

Lee Jae-yong, the de facto head of Samsung Group, has vowed his continuous support for the group’s compliance committee in his first message in prison, as he seeks to keep up his pledge of improving law-abiding culture at South Korea’s top conglomerate.

Lee was sentenced to two and a half year in prison by the Seoul High Court on Monday in a retrial of a bribery case involving former President Park Geun-hye.

The vice chairman of Samsung Electronics Co. was put behind bars again less than three years after he was allowed to walk free.

Samsung launched an independent compliance committee in February 2020 to monitor the group’s compliance with laws and ethics, after the Seoul High Court ordered Lee in October 2019 to devise measures for preventing ethical lapses at the conglomerate.

“Lee said that he will continue supporting the compliance committee’s activities and also asked the committee members to keep up their jobs,” Samsung said on Thursday.

While expecting the committee to enhance its compliance culture, Samsung had pinned high hopes on its launch helping Lee get a suspended sentence in the bribery case, reports Yonhap news agency.

However, the appeals court said that Samsung’s compliance committee is not seen as effective enough to be considered one of the sentencing factors favourable to Lee and sent the heir back to jail.

With its leader imprisoned, there was speculation that Samsung might have little reason to boost its support for the committee, but industry insiders said Lee’s latest message reaffirms his commitment to push for a “New Samsung” even though he is not a free man.

In a rare press conference last year, Lee emphasised that compliance with the law is a value that cannot be compromised and that the committee will work independently without interruption even after his legal battle ends.

Meanwhile, Samsung’s compliance committee was scheduled to hold its first meeting of the year and discuss compliance measures presented by seven Samsung Group affiliates.