Samsung chairman resigns amid corruption charges
Amid accusations of corruption and following an indictment on tax evasion charges, the chairman of Samsung has resigned.
Lee Kun-hee has been the target of years of bribery and corruption allegations, but was finally found guilty of evading at least $128 million in taxes; and has now stepped down.
"Today I decided to resign", Mr. Lee, who has headed up the company for 20 years, told a nationally televised news conference.
"I thought I had a long road to travel and a lot of things to do. I have regrets. But I think this is time for me to leave, taking all the mistakes of the past with me."
Lee continued: "I offer my apology from the bottom of my heart for causing concerns for the people. I am going to take full responsibility, both moral and legal".
The resignation has come as a surprise to many as Lee come through bigger scandals in the past including a conviction on bribery charges in the 1990s.
This latest court case has included not only the accusation of tax evasion but also Lee was charged with damaging the interest of other shareholders by allegedly helping to engineer the transfer of management control to his son by arranging Samsung subsidiaries to sell shares to his son at "unfairly low prices", reports the New York Times.
And the prosecutor also discovered an estimated $4.6 billion that Lee is accused of keeping hidden in the stock and bank accounts opened in the names of Samsung executives.
This money was allegedly managed by his closest aides.
Lee is claiming that the money was part of his inheritance from his father, who founded Samsung, and was kept secret in case the company faced a hostile takeover bid.
The prosecutor has accepted this claim despite calls by civic groups to investigate the allegation made by Samsung's former chief in-house lawyer, Kim Yong Chul, that this money was used to bribe officials.
If convicted of these charges, Lee could face up to life in prison.
His son and heir, Lee Jae Yong, will also resign as an executive at Samsung Electronics. According to The New York Times, he will work in overseas outposts "building up his market experiences".
Lee Hak Soo, the No 2 executive at Samsung, and another top executive at the office who helped manage the secret funds will also resign.