Wed, May 21, 2008 - Page 12 News List

Prosecutors seek jail term for chairman of Hyundai

HARD TIME? While defense lawyers said Chung Mong-koo was too important to the economy to serve time in jail, prosecutors said he should serve a six-year sentence


State prosecutors demanded yesterday a six-year prison term for Hyundai Motor chairman Chung Mong-koo after the Supreme Court ordered a resentencing in the auto tycoon's embezzlement conviction.

The Seoul High Court last year suspended a three-year prison term handed to Chung by a lower court while upholding his guilty verdict for embezzlement and breach of trust. Prosecutors had originally sought six years.

The high court also ordered the tycoon to do community service.

The suspended prison term enabled Chung to continue running South Korea’s largest automaker without going to jail.

Prosecutors said that lecture and writing duties the court ordered were not proper activities for sentences involving community service. The top court last month agreed and sent the case back to the high court for a new sentence to be issued.

Yesterday, prosecutor Yoon Dae-jin called Chung’s case “grave” and said the court should deal with it sternly.

Chung’s lawyers pleaded with the presiding judge to maintain the suspended three-year prison term, citing his contribution to the nation’s economy and his importance to Hyundai’s planned overseas investments.

The new sentence was set to be handed down on June 3, according to the Seoul High Court. A new presiding judge is handling the case.

Chung was found guilty in February last year on charges that he embezzled company money to set up a slush fund. Prosecutors said much of the money was used to pay lobbyists to gain government favors and for personal use.

In September, the Seoul High Court suspended Chung’s prison term for five years, meaning he would not go to jail if he stayed out of trouble during the period.

The presiding judge said at the time that Chung was too important to the nation to go to prison.

Hyundai Motor is South Korea’s biggest automaker and a key driver of the economy. Hyundai and affiliate Kia Motors Corp together form the world’s sixth-largest automative group.

Chung was also ordered to do public service in the form of delivering lectures and writing newspaper and magazine articles on lawful management, and to fulfill a promise to donate 1 trillion won (US$957 million) in assets to charity.

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