Less than a week after he was indicted for tax evasion, Lee Kun-hee has fallen on his sword after 20 years at the top. In a nationally televised press conference, the second-generation Samsung chairman apologised for his wrongdoing and for the negative impact the probe could have on South Korea.
“I have decided to step down as chairman of the group,” he announced at the company’s headquarters in Seoul. “I will take all legal and moral responsibility and truly apologise to the nation.”
Lee is alleged to have hidden $4.5 billion in borrowed-name accounts, evading $112.8 million in taxes (click here to read more). He was also charged with breach of trust for overlooking the group's illegal wealth transfer to his son. Further allegations of bribery and a slush fund could not be proven.
Nine other executives from the firm were also indicted but none have yet been formerly arrested. Lee is to remain free until his trial but could face life imprisonment if found guilty.
Lee started working in the company his father founded in 1987 and it has since become the world’s leading provider of memory chips, with revenues of $90 billion.
As yet it is not clear whether Lee’s only son, Lee Jae-yong, will succeed him as chairman. Lee’s son and his wife were cleared of all charges in the probe.