Brother of Samsung chief loses $1.1-billion inheritance appeal

SEOUL (AFP) - The elder brother of South Korea's richest man, Samsung Electronics chairman Lee Kun Hee, lost his court appeal on Thursday for an US$850 million (S$1.1 billion) share of his sibling's inherited wealth.

The Seoul High Court upheld a lower court ruling allowing Mr Lee to retain all his shareholdings in the giant conglomerate that members of his family had accused him of hiding from them following the death in 1987 of his father and Samsung founder Lee Byung Chul.

The collective family claim had amounted to 4.1 trillion won (S$4.8 billion), and Mr Lee's elder brother Lee Maeng Hee had appealed to the High Court over his 940 billion won share.

While the court found that some shares claimed by Mr Lee Maeng Hee had indeed been bequeathed to him, it noted that the 10-year statute of limitations on inheritance claims had expired.

Mr Lee Maeng Hee's lawyer said his client had yet to decide whether to appeal to the supreme court.

In their initial suit, Mr Lee Maeng Hee and other relatives had claimed that, after the death of their father, Mr Lee Kun Hee had hidden shares and assets that had been held in other people's names.

Only Mr Lee Maeng Hee appealed the lower court ruling handed down in February last year.

Mr Lee Byung Chul, who founded what is now the world's largest technology firm by revenue, had three sons and five daughters.

Under the stewardship of Mr Lee Kun Hee, the conglomerate has flourished, becoming the world's top chipmaker and mobile phone maker.

He is South Korea's richest man, with a net worth estimated by Forbes magazine at around US$10.8 billion.