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Samsung’s chairman indicted on tax evasion, cleared of bribery

Samsung Group chairman Lee Kun Hee was indicted Thursday on charges of tax evasion and breach of trust, but a special prosecutor dropped bribery charges against him in an investigation of South Korea’s largest conglomerate.

Lee, 66, used nearly 1,200 accounts under other people’s names to carry out profitable stock transactions and avoid 113 billion won ($114.3 million) in taxes, lead prosecutor Cho Joon Woong charged. Samsung had also been accused of regularly bribing public officials, but Cho said his team of investigators were unable to prove those accusations. The inquiry was launched after one of Samsung’s former attorneys, Kim Yong Chul, accused the company of establishing bank accounts amounting to 200 billion won in the names of its managers and other employees and using the money it deposited in them to bribe public officials.

The National Assembly in November approved the independent investigation into the group, which includes the world’s largest maker of liquid crystal displays and second-largest chipmaker, Samsung Electronics Co. The conglomerate - which is also involved in shipbuilding, construction, financial services and the chemical industry - denied all the charged leveled against it. Although scandal-plagued, Samsung, which produces a quarter of South Korea’s exports, is also an object of national pride. (m&