Lotte Chief Joins Jailed-Then-Released Chaebol Heads Shown Mercy
(Bloomberg) -- A Seoul appeals court on Friday let Lotte Group chairman Shin Dong-bin walk free from prison after suspending a 30-month sentence he’d received for bribery and embezzlement.
The decision was the latest example of clemency shown to a convicted head of a South Korean family-run conglomerate, which are locally known as the chaebol.
Samsung Electronics Co. Vice Chairman Jay Y. Lee, heir apparent to the nation’s largest business group, was released from prison in February after receiving a suspended sentence on charges related to a bribery scandal that toppled former president Park Geun-hye. Lotte’s Shin was also caught up in the bribery scandal for offering 7 billion won ($6 million) to a sports foundation controlled by a confidante of Park.
The white-collar crimes committed by family-controlled groups were uncovered in a series of probes and have been seen as part of a business culture President Moon Jae-in has pledged to reform. Former president Park is serving a 25-year jail term for corruption.
Notable chaebol convictions:
- Jay Y. Lee was convicted of bribery, perjury and embezzlement in August and handed a five-year prison sentence for his role in the Park scandal. The vice chairman of Samsung Electronics Co. was accused of paying bribes to a confidante of the then-South Korean leader to get government backing for a merger of affiliates that tightened his grip on the smartphone maker. He walked free from prison in February after an appeals court suspended his sentence and appealed the case.
- Lee Kun-hee, Samsung Group chairman and Jay Y.’s father, was convicted twice. In 2008 it was for tax evasion. He was given a suspended three-year prison sentence, then eventually pardoned by President Lee Myung-bak, who was himself sentenced to a 15-year jail term Oct. 5. For Lee Kun-hee, a 1996 conviction for bribing ex-President Roh Tae-woo resulted in a two-year suspended prison sentence and subsequent pardon.
- Chung Mong-koo, Hyundai Motor Group chairman, was convicted of embezzlement and breach of duty in 2007. He was given a suspended three-year prison term after promising to make a donation to charity of 1 trillion won, which was worth $1 billion at the time. Chung was also pardoned by Lee Myung-bak.
- Lee Jay-hyun, CJ Group chairman, was convicted in 2014 of embezzlement, breach of fiduciary duty and tax evasion before eventually being sentenced to two-and-a-half years in jail. Lee, who is Jay Y.’s cousin, has been in and out of jail during that period because of complications stemming from a kidney transplant in 2013. Park Geun-hye pardoned Lee in August 2016.
- Kim Seung-youn, Hanwha Group chairman, was convicted of embezzlement in 2012, for which he was sentenced to four years jail, and also for assault in which he received an 18-month sentence in 2007. Both sentences were suspended. He received a pardon for his assault conviction from Lee Myung-bak in 2008.
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