Ordered to hear the case again, the Seoul High Court ruled that 7.7 million U.S. dollars' worth of gifts and other funding given to former President Park Geun-hye and her confidante Choi Soon-sil constituted bribes, and sentenced Lee Jae-yong, the Samsung Electronics Vice Chairman, to two and a half years.
The business tycoon hoped to avoid prison time as the court said last year that it would take into account remorse shown by Samsung going forward and its efforts to prevent any further illicit activities.
An independent compliance committee at the company over the past year has been working to fulfill the court's requirements, but the results were not good enough to warrant a lowered penalty.
That being said, the court found that bribes were partly used by the company to facilitate Lee's succession to the group's leadership.
The defendants, however, claimed the money was paid under duress.
"This case is essentially a violation of freedom and property rights by the former president's abuse of authority. That being said, I regret the court's ruling."
The Seoul High Court was hearing the case after the Supreme Court in 2019 overturned an earlier appeals decision that let him out of prison with a two-and-a-half year sentence suspended.
The Supreme Court said that sentence was too lenient and that other gifts, such as three horses provided to Choi's daughter, should be considered bribes as well.
Monday's ruling is most likely final he can appeal, but there's not much chance of overturning this decision as it was requested by the highest court.
"Before the decision, business associations in the country had sent petitions asking the court for leniency, but now, Samsung Electronics now finds itself leaderless. While the company has found ways to cope with the pandemic, this will be yet another obstacle to overcome."
Kim Do-yeon, Arirang News.