South Korean tycoon Lee Jay Hyun jailed for fraud, tax evasion

 Lee Jay Hyun arriving at the Seoul Central District Court in 2013.
Lee Jay Hyun arriving at the Seoul Central District Court in 2013.PHOTO: BLOOMBERG

SEOUL (AFP) - Ailing South Korean business tycoon Lee Jay Hyun was sentenced to two and a half years in prison on Tuesday (Dec 15), following a court review of his trial on charges ranging from embezzlement to tax evasion.

Lee, the head of the South Korean food and entertainment giant CJ Group, was also slapped with a heavy fine.

"The court finds it necessary to send a clear message that such economic crimes won't go unpunished," the high court in Seoul said in passing the sentence.

The court also handed down 25.2 billion won (S$30 million) in fines.

The tycoon will not go straight to prison as the court granted a stay of sentence pending hospital treatment.

Lee, who has undergone a kidney transplant, claims to suffer from multiple illnesses, including a degenerative neurological disease.

The businessman was initially sentenced to four years in prison in 2014 by a district court. He served just 50 days before being released for treatment.

The sentence was later reduced to three years by the high court and this year the Supreme Court ordered another review, citing errors in the appellate court's application of legal guidelines.

Top officials of South Korea's family-run business conglomerates, or "chaebol", which dominate the national economy, have made regular court appearances on fraud charges over the years.

Some have received heavy jail terms, only for them to be pardoned or released on early parole in light of their "past contributions" and importance to future economic prosperity.