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Jailed Samsung leader fined for taking propofol shots

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Samsung heir Lee Jae-yong arrives at court in Seoul on Janaury 18, 2021. – The de facto chief of South Korea’s Samsung business empire was convicted over a huge corruption scandal and jailed for two and a half years, in a ruling that deprives the tech giant of its top decision-maker. (Photo by Ed JONES / AFP)

South Korean prosecutors fined the jailed de facto leader of the giant Samsung group 50 million won ($45,000) on Friday for illegally taking shots of the anaesthetic propofol.

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Lee Jae-yong — the 168th richest person in the world according to Forbes — is currently serving a two-and-a-half year prison sentence for bribery, embezzlement and other offences in connection with the corruption scandal that brought down ex-South Korean president Park Geun-hye.

He is also standing a separate trial over alleged stock manipulation that effectively eased the path for him to take control of the family conglomerate.

Propofol is normally a medical anaesthetic but is also sometimes used recreationally. An overdose of the drug was given as the cause of pop star Michael Jackson’s death in 2009.

Lee was accused of having repeatedly taken it at a plastic surgery clinic in Seoul in 2017 and 2018.

The Seoul Central District Prosecutors’ Office fined the 52-year-old in a summary indictment, under a procedure where minor cases do not go to court unless the defendant objects.

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Lee’s lawyers insisted that the substance was administered for medical reasons.

“It was prescribed in accordance with the medical procedure by a doctor during Lee’s treatment,” they said in a statement.

But they did not make clear whether they would insist on taking the case to trial, adding: “We will carry out a careful review before deciding on the next step.”

Samsung is by far the largest of the family-controlled empires, known as chaebols, which dominate business in South Korea, the world’s 12th-largest economy.

Its flagship subsidiary Samsung Electronics, one of the world’s biggest smartphone and computer chip makers, declined to comment to AFP.

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