The current President of South Korea, Moon Jae-In, had said a year ago that there will be no more pardons and that corporation corruptions will not be taken lightly.
Lee, who has been detained since February a year ago, was found guilty of bribery, embezzlement, hiding assets overseas, concealing profits from criminal acts, and perjury in a corruption scandal that led to the ousting of former South Korean president Park Geun-Hye.
The chief justice of the Supreme Court was newly appointed by President Moon Jae-in, who took office in May past year, but many of high posts in the judicial body were named under the previous government. He has been in detention since February.
Since a heart attack in 2014 left his father bedridden, Lee has functioned as the group's public face, attending major events and meetings with visiting luminaries.
Even Lee, 49, appeared stunned.
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But the appeals court said Lee did not solicit any such help. The reason Lee's sentence was cut in half in the appeals court is due to the judges finding that Lee did not seek any help in return for the support. He was also convicted of embezzlement.
After her impeachment, Park Geun-hye is regarded both as a perpetrator and a victim.
Special Counsel Park Young-soo accused Lee of offering or promising 43.3 billion won to Park and Choi in the name of sponsorship of equestrian training of Choi's 22-year-old daughter, Chung Yoo-ra, a former dressage rider.
The court said it was impossible to prove that Lee and Park had hatched the deal for which Lee was alleged to have paid a $1.6 million bribe to the president's confidante.
Prosecutors did not have an immediate comment.
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Lee's verdict marked the first member of the family to be convicted and jailed, which had made citizens hopeful of the government to crackdown on corporations.
The special counsel has demanded 12 years in prison for Lee.
Samsung chief Lee Jae-yong leaves the Seoul High Court on Monday.
"There could be expectations that Lee might accelerate a reform in its corporate governance but the bigger issue for stock is earnings", said Jung Sang-Jin, a fund manager at Korea Investment Management.
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