Prosecutors earlier sought 12 years against Lee, claiming Samsung's de facto leader offered or pledged $38 million to win the state pension's approval for a merger between two affiliates under terms created to increase his control over the entire business empire.
Lee's lawyers are expected to appeal soon, where the decision is likely to be taken by the country's Supreme Court, possibly next year. Since his arrest in February, Mr. Kwon and the other two co-CEOs of Samsung Electronics were managing the company by themselves, sources close to the tech giant said, adding that other divisions of the chaebol are now more autonomous than ever before, which some industry watchers previously claiming how that disconnection between various divisions of Samsung Group could hurt the company in the long term.
Samsung Electronics Vice Chairman Kwon Oh-hyun delivered an official statement to staff on August 28 on the latest verdict on the firm's heir-apparent Lee Jae-yong, urging workers to continue giving best efforts. Samsung will appeal the ruling immediately, Song Woo-cheol, a Samsung attorney, told reporters. Instead, at the end of past year Lee was implicated in a massive political scandal that culminated in President Park Geun-hye's ouster. Park, who was embroiled in a tumultuous series of scandals, was removed from office in March.
A scandal which has re-shaped South Korean politics and rocked the country's elite - overshadowing even North Korean missile threats - began when reporters at CNN affiliate JTBC found a computer belonging to Choi Soon-sil late previous year. Twice convicted of tax evasion and bribery, the elder Lee never spent any time in prison. Lee has two sisters, but neither has been heavily involved in Samsung Electronics, which is widely regarded as the center of the Samsung empire.
Samsung vice chair Lee Jae-yong sentenced to five years
Lee joined the Samsung Electronics board in October 2016 around the time of the launch of the company's Galaxy Note 7 smartphone model that continually caught fire and resulted in a subsequent termination of the model. With Lee in prison, wheeling and dealing with the leaders of Silicon Valley may be more hard, and other major moves could be slowed.
Samsung is by far the biggest of the chaebols, as the family-controlled conglomerates that dominate Asia's fourth-largest economy are known, with its revenues equivalent to around a fifth of the country's GDP. From overseas, these companies are largely admired for their technocratic prowess and competitiveness. Some were pardoned and others got sentences reduced on appeal.
It led the public to fundamentally question the public nature of the president's work and to have "mistrust in the morality of the Samsung group", it said.
Even so, it is not clear whether the victory will galvanize broader anti-graft efforts. Lee's conviction, which if upheld on appeal would prolong the company's leadership vacuum. "But it will face consistent calls from business lobbies to pardon Lee Jae-yong".