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A South Korean court on Monday acquitted Samsung Electronics Chairman Lee Jae-yong of financial crimes involving a contentious merger between Samsung affiliates in 2015 that tightened his grip over South Korea’s biggest company.

The ruling by the Seoul Central District Court could ease the legal troubles surrounding the Samsung heir less than two years after he was pardoned of a separate conviction of bribery in a corruption scandal that helped topple a previous South Korean government.

The court said the prosecution failed to sufficiently prove the merger between Samsung C&T and Cheil Industries was unlawfully conducted with an aim to strengthen Lee’s control over Samsung Electronics.

The ruling was criticized by activists, progressive politicians and commentators, who questioned how Lee could be innocent of all charges when he had previously been convicted in the separate case of bribing a former president while seeking government support for the merger. The People’s Solidarity for Participatory Democracy, South Korea’s biggest civic group, said the court failed to display “even a minimal level of social justice” by putting Lee’s interests before those of shareholders and pensioners, whose retirement funds were possibly reduced by the deal, which was endorsed by the National Pension Service.

It described the ruling as a setback for years of efforts to reform the management culture of South Korea’s family-owned conglomerates and their cozy ties with the government. South Korean corporate leaders often receive relatively lenient punishments for corruption, business irregularities and other crimes, with judges often citing concerns over the country’s economy.

Prosecutors had sought a five-year jail term for Lee, who was accused of stock price manipulation and accounting fraud. It wasn’t immediately clear whether they would appeal. Lee denied wrongdoing in the current case, describing the 2015 merger as “normal business activity.”

Lee, 55, did not answer questions from reporters as he left the court. You Jin Kim, Lee’s lawyer, praised the ruling, saying it confirmed that the merger was legal.

Lee, a third-generation corporate heir who was officially appointed chairman of Samsung Electronics in October 2022, has led the Samsung group of companies since 2014, when his late father, former chairman Lee Kun-hee, suffered a heart attack.

Lee Jae-yong served 18 months in prison after being convicted in 2017 over separate bribery charges related to the 2015 deal. He was originally sentenced to five years in prison for offering 8.6 billion won ($6.4 million) worth of bribes to then-President Park Geun-hye and her close confidante to win government support for the 2015 merger, which was key to strengthening his control over the Samsung business empire and solidifying the father-to-son leadership succession.

Park and her confidante were also convicted in the scandal, and enraged South Koreans staged massive protests for months demanding an end to shady ties between business and politics. The demonstrations eventually led to Park’s ouster from office.

Lee was released on parole in 2021 and pardoned by South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol in August 2022, in moves that extended a history of leniency toward major white-collar crime in South Korea and preferential treatment for convicted tycoons.

Some shareholders had opposed the 2015 merger, saying it unfairly benefited the Lee family while hurting minority shareholders.


The United Nations’ top court on Wednesday rejected large parts of a case filed by Ukraine alleging that Russia bankrolled separatist rebels in the country’s east a decade ago and has discriminated against Crimea’s multiethnic community since its annexation of the peninsula.

The International Court of Justice ruled Moscow violated articles of two treaties — one on terrorism financing and another on eradicating racial discrimination — but it rejected far more of Kyiv’s claims under the treaties.

It rejected Ukraine’s request for Moscow to pay reparations for attacks in eastern Ukraine blamed on pro-Russia Ukrainian rebels, including the July 17, 2014, downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 that killed all 298 passengers and crew.

Russia has denied any involvement in the downing of the jetliner. A Dutch domestic court convicted two Russians and a pro-Moscow Ukrainian in November 2022 for their roles in the attack and sentenced them in their absence to life imprisonment. The Netherlands and Ukraine also have sued Russia at the European Court of Human Rights over MH17.

In another rebuke for Moscow, the world court ruled that Russia had violated one of the court’s orders by launching its full-scale invasion in Ukraine nearly two years ago.

The leader of Ukraine’s legal team, Anton Korynevych, called the ruling “a really important day because this is a judgment which says that the Russian Federation violated international law, in particular both conventions under which we made our application.”

The legally binding final ruling was the first of two expected decisions from the International Court of Justice linked to the decade-long conflict between Russia and Ukraine that exploded into all-out war almost two years ago.

At hearings last year, a lawyer for Ukraine, David Zionts, said the pro-Russia forces in eastern Ukraine “attacked civilians as part of a campaign of intimidation and terror. Russian money and weapons fueled this campaign.”


Pierce Brosnan, whose fictitious movie character James Bond has been in hot water plenty of times, is now facing heat in real life, charged with stepping out of bounds in a thermal area during a recent visit to Yellowstone National Park.

Brosnan walked in an off-limits area at Mammoth Terraces, in the northern part of Yellowstone near the Wyoming-Montana line, on Nov. 1, according to two federal citations issued Tuesday.

Brosnan, 70, is scheduled for a mandatory court appearance on Jan. 23 in the courtroom of the world’s oldest national park. The Associated Press sent a request for comment to his Instagram account Thursday, and email messages to his agent and attorney.

Yellowstone officials declined to comment. Brosnan was in the park on a personal visit and not for film work, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for Wyoming said.

Mammoth Terraces is a scenic spot of mineral-encrusted hot springs bubbling from a hillside. They’re just some of the park’s hundreds of thermal features, which range from spouting geysers to gurgling mud pots, with water at or near the boiling point.

Going out-of-bounds in such areas can be dangerous: Some of the millions of people who visit Yellowstone each year get badly burned by ignoring warnings not to stray off the trail.

Getting caught can bring legal peril too, with jail time, hefty fines and bans from the park handed down to trespassers regularly.

In addition to his four James Bond films, Brosnan starred in the 1980s TV series “Remington Steele” and is known for starring roles in the films “Mrs. Doubtfire” and “The Thomas Crown Affair.”


Thailand’s Cabinet on Tuesday approved an amendment to its civil code to allow same-sex marriage, with an expectation for the draft to be submitted to Parliament next month.

Karom Polpornklang, a deputy government spokesperson, said the amendment to the Civil and Commercial Code will change the words “men and women” and “husband and wife” to “individuals” and “marriage partners” for same-sex couples to be able to receive the same rights that heterosexual couples receive.

He said the law would guarantee the right to form a family in a relationship between same-sex couples, adding that the next step will be an amendment to the pension fund law to recognize same-sex couples as well.

Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin told reporters that the draft law is expected to be proposed to Parliament on Dec. 12. If it becomes law after Parliament’s approval and King Maha Vajiralongkorn’s endorsement, Thailand will be the third place in Asia, after Taiwan and Nepal, to allow same-sex marriage.

While famous for being an LGBTQ+ friendly country, Thailand has struggled to pass a marriage equality law. Parliament last year debated several legal amendments to allow either marriage equality or civil unions, which do not grant same-sex couples all the same rights as heterosexual couples. All of the bills failed to be passed before the parliamentary session of the previous government ended.

The new government led by the Pheu Thai party, which took office in August, revived the attempt to pass a marriage equality bill, which it had promised during its election campaign.

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