By Alex Jensen
South Korean prosecutors asked a Seoul court on Monday to sentence Samsung Electronics Vice Chairman Lee Jae-yong to 12 years in prison over corruption charges.
Lee, 49, is accused of paying tens of billions of dollars in bribes to ensure a smooth power succession as his father, Samsung Chairman Lee Kun-hee, has been hospitalized since a heart attack more than three years ago.
The case dates back to a contentious 2015 Samsung merger backed by the state pension fund -- and forms part of a bigger scandal that has encircled dozens of prominent figures, not least impeached ex-President Park Geun-hye who is awaiting her own judgment on multiple charges including coercing massive donations from local business leaders.
While underlings insist their boss did not need government support to succeed his ailing father, Lee is also accused of embezzlement and hiding assets as well as criminal gains.
"It is a typical corruption crime stemming from a back-scratching alliance between politics and business, which has indeed compromised our constitutional values," Special Prosecutor Park Young-soo was quoted by Yonhap News Agency as telling Seoul Central District Court.
Lee maintained his innocence during a final emotion-filled statement.
"I would never ask the president for something to my own benefit.... However foolish I am, I'm not foolish enough to inflict damage on the national pension, which holds the lifetime savings of ordinary people," Lee insisted.
"That is one serious misunderstanding and I do feel that I'm falsely accused of it."
The court is expected to announce its verdict on Aug. 25.