The Samsung executive who hosted President Biden on a visit to a South Korean computer chip plant on Friday was exempted from trial for fraud for doing so.
A court spokesman told Reuters that Lee Jae-yong was allowed to leave the court to welcome Biden and his South Korean counterpart, Eun Suk-yol, to Pyeongtaek.
Lee’s absence was unusual, as he attended every single hearing in the 2015 merger case between two Samsung-affiliated companies.
Just nine months earlier, Lee was released from prison on parole, reducing his sentence to 30 months for bribing corporate funds and bribery related to the merger.
Lee was originally sentenced to five years in prison on corruption charges in 2017, although a decision by the Seoul High Court later reduced the sentence to 2.5 years.
His sentence was linked to a major corruption scandal that eventually led to the impeachment and ouster of former South Korean President Park Geun-hee, who has been in prison since 2017.
According to the Associated Press, Lee faces alleged stock price manipulation, auditing breaches, as well as other charges related to the 2015 merger.
Lee’s legal team has insisted that he committed no criminal act and only participated in normal business activities.
In November, Samsung announced it would open a similar $17 billion plant outside Austin in Taylor, Texas — which is expected to be up and running sometime in 2024.
Biden explained the plans in comments after his Friday visit.
“Our two countries work together to create the best, most advanced technology in the world. This factory is proof of that,” said the president. “It gives both the Republic of Korea and the United States a competitive edge in the global economy if we Keep your supply chain flexible, reliable and secure.”
“This vibrant democracy has become a powerhouse of global innovation by investing in educating its people in companies like Samsung that are driven by responsible development of technology and innovation,” he said. “It will be important for both of our countries to shape the future in the direction we both want to go.”
post with wires