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SK Telecom chairman faces four-year prison sentence

South Korean operator SK Telecom’s chairman Chey Tae-won has been handed a four-year jail sentence after being found guilty of stealing close to $50m from the company. The ruling came as the country’s president-elect vowed tougher action against the nation’s corrupt business leaders.

In previous years, executives at South Korean firms including Samsung, Hyundai and Hanwha had only been given suspended sentences when found guilty of corruption.

It will not be the first prison sentence Chey has served. In 2003, he was convicted for fraud and spent several months in jail, although this did not prevent him from returning to the chairmanship of the operator.

“As the head of SK, which has a large influence on the nation’s economy, Chey Tae-won should be an example of corporate governance and transparency … but instead embezzled several tens of billions of won in affiliates’ funds and tried to pass on the responsibility to the other defendants,” Seoul’s Central District Court’s Judge Lee Won-beom said in his ruling, according to news agency Reuters.

SK Group, the operator’s holding company, said that Chey Tae-won would appeal the ruling.

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