Former Samsung chairman Lee Kun-hee walks into Seoul Central District Court to attend the final hearing on Thursday. / Yonhap
By Park Si-soo
A special prosecutor Thursday sought a 7-year prison term and 350 billion won ($350 million) fine for former Samsung Chairman Lee Kun-hee on charges of tax evasion and breach of trust.
It also demanded 5-year prison terms for Lee Hak-soo, the group's former vice chairman, and Kim In-joo, former chief of the conglomerate's strategic planning office. Three-year prison sentences were also sought for the remaining five accused former and incumbent directors.
The first ruling will be made on July 16 at 1:30 p.m.
Special prosecutor Cho Joon-woong said, ``The accused sought personal profit at the sacrifice of the conglomerate and its shareholders. Although Samsung has been considered the nation's No. 1 company and has played a great role in developing the economy, it cannot be an excuse to avoid punishment.''
He added, ``The accused observed it had been hard to address wrongdoings questioned during trials due to tough business conditions. But it doesn't make sense.''
Lee has pleaded not guilty. The defense claimed the key charge on the father-to-son wealth transfer did not involve Lee. His son, Jae-yong, acquired shares of Samsung affiliates at giveaway prices and gained group control in the mid-1990s, but the process was facilitated by executives, not the Lee family, they argued.
To reporters' questions over the prosecutor's demand, Lee said ``I don't know whether it is harsh or not due to lack of knowledge of law.''
The special prosecutor charged Lee and seven other Samsung executives with illegally transferring company control to his only son Jae-yong and evading 112.8 billion won in taxes from illegal stock trading.
In the meantime, several prominent figures including George H. W. Bush, former U.S. president, and Juan Antonio Samaranch, former president of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) sent petitions calling for leniency for Lee to Seoul Central District Court.
According to the court, the former U.S. president said Lee had dedicated himself to developing the global economy and has become a role model to many business leaders around the world.
Samaranch and other key decision makers in international sport also called for moderate punishment, citing Lee's contribution to promoting the international sports community.
A senior judge in the court said, ``It's rare to see dignitaries issue statements calling for moderate punishment to an accused. But they would not affect the ruling.''