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Supreme Court Hands Down 'Not Guilty' Verdict for Ex-Samsung Chairman Lee Kun-Hee
Former Samsung Group Chairman Lee Kun-Hee

The Supreme Court on May 29, 2009 upheld lower courts' not guilty verdict for former Samsung Group Chairman Lee Kun-Hee, who was indicted on charges of illegally transferring wealth and managerial control of the conglomerate to his only son, Jae-yong.

Lee stepped down on April 22, 1998 as head of S.Korea's largest business combine in a surprise move following his indictment a week before on charges of tax evasion and breach of trust

The ruling in favor of Lee came after the top court overruled a high court's guilty verdict for two former Samsung executives charged with helping Jae-yong buy convertible bonds issued by the amusement park operator Everland, Samsung Group's de facto holding company, at a below-market price in 1996.

Since earlier in 1998, Samsung Group faced with the independent counsel probe into allegations of slush funds, bribery and shady intra-group transactions that helped the 66-year-old Lee pass control of the group to his only son.

The special probe came as a major embarrassment for the Lee family because it was sparked by the group's former chief attorney Kim Yong-chul, who had publicly made a series of revelations along with a group of priests.

The group accounts for one-fifth of South Korea's exports and stock market and its tax payments represent some 10 percent of government income.

If the Samsung chairman is found guilty, he could face a sentence of between five years to life in jail.

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