Jail unlikely for indicted Samsung exec

Jeremy Hobson Apr 17, 2008


Lisa Here’s how powerful the chief executive of the South Korean giant Samsung is. Lee Kun-Hee has just been indicted on tax evasion charges after a long investigation. But because of how important a figure he is in South Korea, authorities say he probably won’t be jailed. Marketplace’s Jeremy Hobson has more.

Jeremy Hobson: Officials say Lee evaded about $114 million in taxes.
But the fact that he’s staying out of jail for now is no surprise to former U.S. Ambassador to South Korea Donald Gregg. He describes Lee this way:

Donald Gregg: He is a titan in South Korean industry.

Lee’s father started Samsung, which has become one of the world’s leading firms in high tech and other industries. The company’s success has helped South Korea become one of the world’s largest economies.
But Gregg says in order to foster growth, the government looked the other way while business leaders engaged in sketchy practices.

Gregg: Taking shortcuts or using procedures, which by today’s standards are illegal, but in the swashbuckling period of Korea’s development were winked at.

Just last year, the chairman of carmaker Hyundai was sentenced to three years in prison. Though his sentence his since been suspended because of his similarly important role in South Korea’s economy.

I’m Jeremy Hobson for Marketplace.

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