Samsung scion fined over illegal use of anesthetic

June 4, 2021

Lee Jae-yong, the imprisoned de facto head of Samsung Group, was fined on Friday on charges of illegally taking propofol shots.

The Seoul Central District Prosecutors’ Office slapped Lee with a 50 million won (US$44,800) fine in a summary indictment, which doesn’t require a formal trial.

Lee was accused of having excessively and illegally taken the anesthetic at a plastic surgery clinic in Seoul in 2017-2018. A complaint was filed against him with the Anti-Corruption and Civil Rights Commission in January 2020.

The 52-year-old Samsung scion, who was jailed in January for embezzlement and bribery, has denied the allegation, arguing that he used propofol “normally” in accordance with a doctor’s prescription.

In March, a panel of civilian experts recommended that the state prosecution service halt its investigation into Lee’s alleged propofol use. But the panel didn’t reach a decision on whether Lee should be indicted, with its 14 members evenly split on the matter.

Lee’s legal representatives said they’ll decide on the next steps “after careful consideration.”

Industry sources suspected that talk of a special pardon for Lee could gain traction, given that he was only summarily indicted for his propofol-related charges. They added Lee is unlikely to request a formal trial, meaning the book on those charges is essentially closed.

The focus now appears to be shifting to the possibility of Lee’s pardon, and President Moon Jae-in discussed the issue in a meeting with business leaders Wednesday.

Samsung and the Korea Chamber of Commerce and Industry (KCCI) have both lobbied for Lee’s pardon, especially ahead of the Aug. 15 Liberation Day. Presidents have often granted special pardons on that occasion to promote national unity.

According to Cheong Wa Dae, Moon told the business leader during the Wednesday meeting that he understood their challenges. He was also quoted as saying, “There are many people who sympathize with it. I am well aware that the economic situation for now is proceeding differently from the previous one and that a bold role is required for businesses.”

This file photo from Jan. 18, 2021, shows Lee Jae-yong, the de facto head of Samsung Group, prior to a sentencing hearing over bribery allegations at Seoul High Court in Seoul. (Yonhap)

This file photo from Jan. 18, 2021, shows Lee Jae-yong, the de facto head of Samsung Group, prior to a sentencing hearing over bribery allegations at Seoul High Court in Seoul. (Yonhap)

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