J.Y. Lee, Samsung
J.Y. Lee, Samsung Image Credit: Reuters

Samsung Electronics Co. Executive Chairman Jay Y. Lee denied wrongdoing and pleaded for a chance to lead South Korea's biggest company after prosecutors requested he receive a five-year prison term for charges involving a controversial merger of two Samsung Group units in 2015.

In the hearing at the Seoul Central District Court on Friday, prosecutors also asked for Lee to be fined 500 million won ($385,600). The court is scheduled to deliver its ruling on January 26, ending a trial that has lasted more than three years.

In his final argument late Friday, Lee stressed his duty to steer the company his grandfather founded to the next stage at a time of heightened geopolitical risks, rapid supply-chain reorganization and technological disruptions. He said his responsibilities include preparing for the future while competing and collaborating with global tech giants.

"I will give everything I have to fulfill these responsibilities," he said in an argument that lasted about 10 minutes. "Please give me an opportunity to focus on moving forward with all my capabilities."

Lee has been embroiled in bribery and corruption investigations dating back to 2017 centered on the means he used in trying to take control of the company. He was imprisoned twice. In August 2022, he won a presidential pardon for conviction in a separate case, allowing him to formally take the helm at the company.

In the current trial, prosecutors have alleged that the 55-year-old Lee and other executives took a series of illegal steps to engineer the 2015 merger of Samsung C&T Corp. and Cheil Industries Inc., and improperly benefited from the deal.

Lee denied any wrongdoing on Friday, saying he "never had any personal interests in mind." He also requested leniency for other defendants in the case, former Samsung executives who have "dedicated their lives to the company."