It is reported by Alisa Priddle at WardsAuto.com that the second richest man in Korea sits in a jail cell right now (deservedly so, some say). He happens to be the Chairman of Hundai Motor Group, Chung Mong-koo, who was arrested April 28 on embezzlement ($105 million) and other charges, but he is still running his automotive empire from his jail cell. His lawyers, in the meantime, are coming up with some very, very creative arguments as they try to get him out on bail.
Chung is known as a man who likes to be in charge. Since that's tough to do in a jail cell, his lawyers have argued for bail, citing that his company can't be managed properly without its chairman on site. He is widely credited with Hyundai and Kia expansions and success of recent times and his auto empire's tentacles stretch thru all parts of the business, from making the steel to financing the sales. That may have influenced the reportedly 1 million signatures on petitions calling for his release from jail.
With plans in the works for new plants in the US and the Czech Republic, his lawyers argued that Chung needs to be personally involved in the decision-making and that without him, the Korean economy will suffer.
Not trusting the argument to be successful (after all, this is the man who founded the Korean watchdog group that was supposed to wipe out corporate abuses and who signed the Korean Pact on Anti-Corruption in 2005 on behalf of the auto industry), Chung showed up at a June 12 bail hearing in a wheelchair with claims of frail health.
Yeah, right, frail health. It just goes to show that even billionaires can get in frail health from breathing too much jail air.
Anyway, the lawyers now argue that Chung can only be partly responsible for the embezzlement and other charges because he had no "direct" knowledge of what was going on with the illegal funds. Problem is, on the question of bail, Korean courts look to see if the accused has admitted his wrongs and is remorseful. That seems to run counter to Chung's approach of (paraphrasing here) "I didn't do it but if I did I didn't know what was really going on."
So what to do? No problem, just fess up.
Now, Chung apparently has decided to admit responsibility and that he was told they needed a "slush fund" and he authorized it. The argument's "logic" (if you can call it that) seems to lead to an emphatic "Oh yeah, by the way, can I get out of jail now?"
The next bail hearing is June 26 for Chung. Only time will tell if the court decides that Chung is only saying what he knows he has to say or if he really means it. 'course, if they think he really means it, I've got some beachfront property in Kansas I'd like to sell them...
One can't help but wonder if Chung had been minding his business right, instead of stashing away millions of dollars for bribe money, maybe Hyundai wouldn't have had to recall nearly a quarter of a million cars because the air bags' computer systems weren't built right!