The Supreme Court of South Korea yesterday upheld a four-year jail sentence for the chairman of the country’s third-largest conglomerate, the SK Group, for embezzlement.
Chey Tae-won, 54, was convicted of diverting 46.5 billion won (US$43.5 million) from two affiliates in 2008 and funneling the money into a firm for investments in stock futures and options.
The custodial sentence was seen as sending a message in a country where convicted business tycoons have often been given suspended prison terms in recognition of their contribution to South Korea’s economy. Chey has been in prison since January last year, when a lower court handed down the four-year jail term. The sentence had already been upheld once on appeal before the Supreme Court confirmation.
There was no immediate comment from the conglomerate, which operates in industries from energy to telecommunications and includes top mobile carrier SK Telecom.
It was not Chey’s first conviction. In 2003, he was sentenced to three years in prison for his role in a US$1.3 billion accounting fraud.
He was released after just seven months and, in 2008, granted a full presidential pardon, wiping his record clean. It is not unusual for senior executives with criminal convictions to remain in charge of South Korea’s family-dominated conglomerates.
South Korea’s Supreme Court also upheld a 40-month jail sentence for Chey’s younger brother and group vice chairman Chey Jae-won.