Acquittals in Hyundai case: court says pay up

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Acquittals in Hyundai case: court says pay up

A local court ruled yesterday that the state should pay 43.8 million won ($37,600) to Byeon Yang-ho - a former financial ministry official who had been acquitted of receiving bribes from Hyundai Motor - for his detention during the high-profile scandal.

The Seoul High Court also handed down similar rulings to four other people who had been indicted in the scandal but were later acquitted. About 200 million won in total will be paid as compensation to the five, including Byeon and Park Sang-bae, the former vice president of the Korea Development Bank.

Under the nation’s law governing criminal compensation, a person who was detained during an investigation or trial but is later acquitted will receive restitution from the state. The daily amount will be no more than five times the minimum daily wage.

In the case of the five, a daily compensation worth 150,000 won was decided.

Disagreeing with an appeals court’s bribery conviction of Byeon, the former financial policy director of the Ministry of Finance and Economy during the Roh Moo-hyun administration, the Supreme Court sent the case back to the Seoul High Court for a retrial in January last year.

Following the retrial, Byeon’s acquittal was reaffirmed by the Supreme Court last September.

Byeon had been convicted of accepting bribes from Hyundai Motor Group in return for using his influence to pressure Hyundai’s creditor banks to reduce the debt of the auto giant’s affiliates. The Supreme Court, however, questioned the reliability of a lobbyist’s testimony, upon which the earlier convictions solely depended.

Byeon was first detained in June 2006, but released on bail four months later. After the conviction was announced by the High Court, he was jailed. Until the Supreme Court sent the case back to the High Court for a retrial, he had been detained for 292 days.

He is currently standing another appeals trial for a separate case involving the controversial sale of the Korea Exchange Bank to a U.S. private equity fund. In December 2009, the Seoul High Court acquitted Byeon and two Korea Exchange Bank executives of charges that they had conspired to sell the bank to the Dallas-based Lone Star at a discounted price.

Byeon was acquitted in the initial and appeals trials, and the case is now pending at the Supreme Court.

By Ser Myo-ja []
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