Samsung heir Lee Jae-yong was fined 70 million won ($60,000) on Tuesday for illegally using the anesthetic propofol 41 times between 2015 and 2020.
The Seoul Central District Court also ordered an additional forfeiture of 17 million won ($14,600) as it convicted Lee, who is worth an estimated $10.2 billion, of violations of the Narcotics Control Act.
Propofol, a sedative, is widely used in common medical procedures including endoscopies and colonoscopies as well as in laser procedures at skincare clinics. Prosecutors have accused Lee of taking propofol for non-medical purposes, but his lawyers said he took the drug in line with a doctor’s prescription.
Propofol is known to cause mild euphoria, but is not considered addictive. If a patient falls asleep under propofol anesthesia, the person does not feel its mood-altering effects.
Koreans have started to hear more about this substance in recent years as it was abused by K-pop stars claiming they needed it to sleep due to their panic disorder. Propofol was also implicated in the 2009 death of U.S..
Lee, who is the de facto leader of Samsung, is now on parole after being found guilty of bribery, embezzlement and concealment of criminal proceeds worth about 8.6 billion won ($7.8 million). The Blue House granted Lee a special pardon after growing calls from the public for Samsung to play a role in addressing a semiconductor and vaccine shortage.
As Korea’s biggest conglomerate, Samsung is deeply intertwined with the country’s society. Samsung Electronics represents 20% of the nation’s stock market value and one-fourth of its total exports, according to the Associated Press.
Lee’s many court visits are unlikely to end soon. He is also being tried at Seoul Central District for allegedly violating the Capital Market Financial Investment Business Act in connection with Samsung C&T’s merger with Cheil Industries.
In releasing Lee on Tuesday, the judge told him, “Show an exemplary model to your children whom they won’t be ashamed of.”
As he left jail, the executive told the media, “I am listening to the concerns, criticisms, worries and high expectations for me. I will work hard.”
After pleading guilty, Lee said he regretted his actions and added, “I’ll take this opportunity to look back on myself and make sure this doesn’t happen again.”