Chung Mong-koo, the chairman of Hyundai Motor and one of South Koreas richest men, will be retried for embezzlement and breach of trust after the Supreme Court yesterday granted an appeal made by the prosecutors office.
Chung was convicted last year of embezzling about $100 million of Hyundai Motors funds and inflicting about $224 million of damage on group affiliates in the process of their rights offerings. He was also found guilty of using such deals to boost his financial gains and those of his son, Chung Eui-sun, who runs affiliate Kia Motors.
But Chungs prison term was later suspended by an appeals court, leaving him free to run the world's sixth largest carmaker. The Seoul High Court made the suspended sentence contingent on Chung fulfilling his promise to donate nearly $1 billion to charity, building a concert hall, opera house and other cultural centres nationwide.
But prosecutors decided to appeal the ruling.
We sent the case back to the lower court for it to review the sentences, because the court order of fund donation is unlawful and social contributions were not clearly defined, said Oh Suk-joon, a Supreme Court spokesman.
Hyundai yesterday said it was puzzled by the unexpected court decision.Analysts do not expect the Seoul High Court to change its rulings drastically from the previous one, given the leniency that has been granted to tycoons accused of white collar crimes in the country in the past.
It is very unfortunate that this court case has still not been finalised, especially at a time when we have so many pending business issues at hand, Hyundai said yesterday. We will review our options after we discuss the court's ruling with our lawyers."
Hyundai shares closed up 4.7 per cent at Won82,300 yesterday, while Kia shares rose 9.2 per cent to Won11,900 on expectations of strong first-quarter results.
Chung, the son of Hyundais founder, is aggressively pushing for overseas expansion, recently opening a second plant in China and building plants in other foreign markets.
Separately, the chairman of Samsung Group was yesterday questioned by prosecutors for the second time in a week over allegations that the countrys biggest conglomerate managed slush funds and ran a bribery network.
Lee Kun-hee vehemently denied that he ordered the creation of a $205 million slush fund but later said he was responsible for everything. Samsung said it was just a general statement of responsibility for the scandal as the groups head and not an admission of any wrongdoing.