Rulings handed down in busy day for court

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Rulings handed down in busy day for court


Samsung Chairman Lee Kun-hee yesterday won in an appeals ruling by the Seoul High Court against his older brother Maeng-hee, putting an end to a nearly two-year family inheritance feud. The sentence was one of the few rulings surrounding business and political magnets that were coincidentally scheduled for yesterday, which saw either joy or disappointment for the parties involved.

The court did not accept the argument from Lee Maeng-hee, 82, the first son of Samsung’s founder, who claimed that his younger brother owed him a combined 940 billion won ($871.6 million) worth of shares in Samsung Life Insurance and Samsung Electronics, as well as dividends from them.

The assets in dispute were just part of the fortune that their father, Lee Byung-chul, left to Kun-hee, who is currently the chief of the world’s No. 1 smartphone and television maker.

Maeng-hee is the former chairman of CJ Group and father of CJ Chairman Lee Jay-hyun, who is now on trial for massive tax evasion and embezzlement.

Even though part of the Samsung Life Insurance shares owned by Kun-hee can be acknowledged as his inheritance from his father, the legal 10-year period plaintiff Maeng-hee had to claim his ownership had passed, the court said in its ruling.

And not taking issue over the shares for such a long period essentially meant Maeng-hee tacitly agreed with his father’s distribution of assets. It also does not appear necessary for the remaining portion of the inheritance to be shared with Maeng-hee, the court added.

The ruling means the former chairman of CJ Group will be required to pay all of his legal fees toward the lawsuit.

“Given the intention of the court’s ruling and facts, the sentence, we believe, is very appropriate,” said a lawyer representing Lee Kun-hee. “All we wished for was accepted after the court recognized the chairman’s inheritance.”

“I will discuss whether to lodge an appeal after reviewing the ruling,” Maeng-hee’s lawyer said in response to the question of another appeal.

Meanwhile, in a different appeals ruling yesterday, Yoon Jin-shik, a lawmaker with the ruling Saenuri Party, was cleared of a bribery charge.

In the initial trial in February 2013, Yoon was given a six-month prison term with one year of probation and was disbarred from his post after being found guilty of violating the Political Fund Act. Yoon was accused of taking 40 million won from Yoo Dong-chun, chairman of Jeil Savings Bank, in March of 2008, ahead of the general election.

“It is hard to accept the charge solely based on the deposition from Chairman Yoo, who may have lied,” said a Seoul High Court judge.

“I think my acquittal is a natural result,” 68-year-old Yoon said in a press release after the ruling. “I am glad to be cleared of a false charge.”

The ruling made it possible for him to resume his post as a lawmaker. He added that he would announce whether he would run in the North Chungcheong gubernatorial race around Feb. 20.

Meanwhile, Jun Gun-pyo, a former National Tax Service chief, had his prison term reduced by four months to three years and six months in an appeals ruling.

He was indicted in August for taking $300,000 cash and a 35 million won watch from CJ Group. In its decision, the Seoul High Court cited that, in the initial ruling, the prison term had exceeded sentencing guidelines.

Rulings for Hanwha Chairman Kim Seung-youn and LIG Chairman Koo Cha-won, also scheduled for yesterday, were postponed by five days, a decision that was abruptly announced earlier in the day.

The court said it was pushing back the rulings to “more prudently review the cases.”

Koo’s case will be held at 2 p.m. Tuesday, while Kim’s will start at 3:30 p.m. the same day.


BY SEO JI-EUN [spring@joongang.co.kr]
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