Page last updated at 05:41 GMT, Tuesday, 29 December 2009

South Korea pardons Samsung's ex-chief Lee Kun-hee

Lee Kun-hee, July 2008
Lee has faced a series of legal troubles in the past two years

The South Korean government has decided to pardon the powerful former chairman of Samsung, convicted for tax evasion, the justice ministry has said.

Lee Kun-hee is to be pardoned so he can return to the International Olympics Committee and help South Korea's bid to host the 2018 Winter Olympics.

Mr Lee was pardoned on a separate funding conviction in 1997.

Presidential pardons are often granted to leaders of South Korea's large, family-owned businesses or "chaebols".

Olympian task

"This decision was made so that Lee could take back his place at the International Olympic Committee and form a better situation for the 2018 Olympics to take place in Pyongchang," justice minister Lee Kwi-nam told reporters, following a cabinet meeting that approved the latest pardon.

South Korea's Yonhap news agency said the pardon raised questions about the rule of law in a country where family-run chaebols still wield a lot of power.

Mr Lee, 67, is widely regarded as the country's most prominent businessman. Trade lobby and sports groups had been urging the president to pardon him, Yonhap reported.

South Korea has tried two times so far to host the Winter Olympics in the mountain resort of Pyongchang, and is bidding again, against Munich in Germany and Annecy in France.

Samsung's Mr Lee stepped down from his chairmanship of South Korea's bid committee in April 2008 after alleged involvement in a deal to give his children a greater stake in the group's holding company.

He was cleared of the charge but handed a suspended three-year jail term for tax evasion.

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Times Online South Korea pardons former Samsung boss - 2 hrs ago
Finance 24 Ex-Samsung chair to be pardoned - 19 hrs ago
Financial TimesSouth Korea pardons ex-Samsung chairman - 19 hrs ago
China Post South Korea to pardon former Samsung chairman - 22 hrs ago
CNN Ex-Samsung chairman pardoned - 34 hrs ago
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