Korea Herald Feb. 21, 2007
JU Group chief gets 12 years in jail
A Seoul lower court yesterday sentenced the chairman of JU Group, the nation's biggest multilevel marketing firm, to 12 years in prison for fraud and embezzlement.
Joo Soo-do, 51, was arrested last July on charges of deceiving over 110,000 people in a fraud case of 1.8 trillion won ($1.9 billion), instructing them to illegally pay a total of 130 billion won to JU Group's affiliates and misappropriating 28.4 billion won of company funds.
Between 2003 and 2005, he also allegedly ordered his staffers to manipulate the computer transaction system to provide higher returns for certain influential people or their families, who joined the firm as sale agents.
Joo pleaded not guilty on all accusations.
"It was inevitable to impose a severe punishment against the defendant as he exerted an evil influence on society," Judge Choi Gyu-hong ruled.
"Not only has the defendant Joo Soo-do not shown any regret for causing enormous damages of several trillion won to many people through planned and systematic fraud schemes, but he blamed the investigators and the media and tried to have influence during court trials."
Last month, the Seoul Eastern District Prosecutors' Office requested life imprisonment for Joo for his constant denials of fraud charges with lies and contradictions, in spite of "clear evidence."
The JU Group has been under investigation since last March for allegedly bribing politicians and high-level government officials. Prosecutor General Choung Sang-myoung described the scandal as "the biggest fraud case in history," as it involved over 340,000 people whose cumulative losses are estimated at more than 4 trillion won.
Prosecutors had linked influential officials to the scandal, including a former aide to President Roh Moo-hyun, and accused JU Group of enticing them or their family members by guaranteeing high returns.
They were named as Lee Jae-sun, a 48-year-old ex-presidential aide, an incumbent senior prosecutor at the Seoul Central District Prosecutors' Office, and a 50-year-old superintendent general at the National Police Agency, identified only as Park.
But prosecutors dropped their charges, saying they were not linked to any illegal lobbying activities.
The Financial Supervisory Commission and the Korea Exchange have also charged Joo, five other people, and two local business companies for illegal stock trading while investing in an oil exploration project.
By Annie I. Bang