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Iconic Former Samsung Chief Spared Prison Time in South Korean Trial

One of South Korea's most powerful business leaders has avoided a prison sentence for alleged corruption. A South Korean court agrees the former chairman of Samsung evaded taxes, but it threw out more serious charges. VOA's Kurt Achin reports from Seoul.

A South Korean judge handed former Samsung Chairman Lee Kun-hee a suspended jail sentence, Wednesday, for evading nearly $50 million in taxes by stashing money in subordinates' bank accounts.

However, the judge said the prosecution failed to prove Lee committed a breach of trust by improperly transferring control of the corporation to his son.

Prosecutors had hoped to send Lee to prison for up to seven years. They say his role in arranging the sale of Samsung assets to his son for bargain prices cost taxpayers and shareholders massive amounts of money.

Samsung is the largest of South Korea's family owned conglomerates, a handful of which are the spine of the country's economy. Samsung, a world leader in electronics, accounts for about a fifth of all South Korean exports and employs a quarter of a million people.

Leaving the courtroom, former Chairman Lee made a public apology.

He says he is truly sorry to all citizens for the trouble he has caused.

The corruption case forced Lee's resignation, earlier this year, along with those of several other high-ranking executives. South Korean lawmakers ordered an independent investigation of the company, last year, after a former Samsung lawyer-turned-whistleblower accused the
company of spending hundreds of millions of dollars on bribes. Prosecutors have been unable to produce evidence supporting that allegation.