Jay Y. Lee, chairman of the Samsung conglomerate, is scheduled to stand trial Tuesday on charges of unauthorized use of a restricted substance, as legal issues continue to plague the businessman despite his August release on parole after a bribery conviction.
Lee is currently on trial for stock-price manipulation and accounting fraud in connection with the $8 billion consolidation of two Samsung companies in 2015.
Market observers anticipated a spate of key decisions at Samsung Electronics and its affiliates following Lee's August release, including the location of a $17 billion semiconductor facility proposed in the U.S.
However, Lee's attention is being drawn back to his legal difficulties, as the Seoul Central District Court is slated to convene its first hearing in a case in which Lee is accused of taking propofol for non-medical purposes at a Seoul clinic. Propofol is a sedative used in anaesthesia.
South Korean law holds both the recipient of a restricted substance considered to have been administered illegally and those who administered the drug criminally accountable.
Lee's attorney has stated that his use was for hospital treatment and was not illegal. Clinic employees, who are being tried separately, have maintained their innocence.
Prosecutors became aware of the matter last year, but were urged to discontinue their inquiry in March 2021 by an independent group that evaluates criminal investigations.
They maintained their pursuit of the maximum fine until June, when another police complaint of sedative use prompted the court to initiate a trial.
The maximum term for the offense is five years in prison or a fine of 50 million won.
Legal experts, on the other hand, believe Lee will not face the maximum penalty if convicted because propofol is less likely to be abused than many other controlled medications.
Lee was convicted of bribery and embezzlement in January and sentenced to 30 months in prison - which includes a year served prior to his sentencing.
He was released from prison in August, with the presidential office pleading for public understanding, expressing the hope that he would assist the country in producing "semiconductors and vaccines."
Samsung announced following his release that it would invest 240 trillion won ($240 billion) over the next three years in areas such as chips and biopharmaceuticals.