S Korea court sets Samsung scion Lee free


A South Korean appeals court has set Samsung Group heir Jay Y. Lee free after nearly a year of detention, suspending his five-year jail term after he was convicted of bribing the country's former president.

A lower court had jailed Lee for corruption in a political scandal that roiled the country and led to the ouster of President Park Geun-hye. He appealed against the verdict and sentence.

Monday's decision is likely to be appealed again to South Korea's supreme court.

Lee, the 49-year-old heir to one of the world's biggest corporate empires, has been detained since February 2017.

He said he spent his year in jail on "precious" self-reflection and promised to show a better side in future.

"Again, I feel sorry to everyone for not showing my best side. And it has been a really precious time for a year reflecting on myself," Lee told reporters at a detention centre.

The Samsung vice chairman pleaded not guilty to charges he used Samsung corporate funds to bribe Park and a confidante, seeking to consolidate his control over Samsung and facilitate a smooth transfer of corporate leadership from his father.

Prosecutors had sought a 12-year prison term for Lee at the appeals court.

Monday's more lenient ruling surprised many who were expecting a tough stance from the appeals court.

Park was impeached and removed from office over the Lee allegations and other alleged corruption and her criminal trial is ongoing.

"To a certain extent, this case started by the public's desire wanting to see the end in collusion between the government and big businesses," said Chung Sun-sup, head of corporate analysis firm Chaebul.com.

Before the final hearing at the appeals court Lee paid back eight billion won ($A10.2 million) to Samsung Electronics.