According to overseas reports, the former chairman of the Samsung Group and one of South Korea’s most powerful business leaders has copped a huge fine and a slap on the wrist over corruption allegations.
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The South Korean court fined Lee $US109 million, which worked out to about the same amount in taxes he was charged with withholding.
However Lee was cleared of “breach of trust and illegally transferring bonds in an alleged scheme to hand control of the Samsung empire to his son”, according to the reports.
And although prosecutors sought a seven-year jail term and a $US346 million fine for Lee, South Korean authorities are known to be quite hesitant to put white collar criminals behind bars for fear it could have a negative impact on the country’s economy- regardless of the gravity of the charges against them.
According to the NY Times, prosecutors said that they found $US4.5 billion of Lee’s personal assets under other names and that he evaded $US112 million in taxes. But they said they could not find evidence to bring bribery charges against him.
Samsung accounts for nearly 18 per cent of South Korea’s gross domestic product and one-fifth of its exports. Lee stepped down as chairman in April after he and nine other senior executives were indicted on tax dodging charges, although he still remains a Samsung shareholder, the reports note.