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Samsung Chief Lee Kunhee Gets 3-year Suspended Jail Sentence

Lee Kun-hee, one of South Korea’s most powerful businessmen and former Samsung Group chief, was handed a 3-year suspended jail sentence on Wednesday for tax evasion and cleared on all other charges.

Lee Kun-hee, one of South Korea’s most powerful businessmen and former Samsung Group chief, was also fined $109 million, more than double the amount of taxes he evaded.

However, Kun-hee was cleared of charges of breach of trust and illegal issuance of bonds aimed at transferring wealth to his children.

Analysts had expected Lee to escape prolonged jail time because judges have often been lenient to South Korean corporate leaders convicted of white collar crimes on the basis that putting them behind bars could hurt business.

The decision not to send Lee to jail comes only a month after the head of world’s No. 6 automaker, Hyundai Motor, was also given a three-year suspended jail sentence after being found guilty of fraud.

“We ruled against an actual jail sentence as the degree of illegality was not significant enough,” Judge Min Byong-hoon said.

Prosecutors had sought a seven-year jail term and a 350 billion won fine for Lee, who led the country’s biggest conglomerate for nearly 20 years.

According to estimates, Lee’s personal fortune is around $2 billion.