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Former Tax Official Charged after Bribery Misunderstanding

Former Tax Official Charged after Bribery Misunderstanding

Posted April. 12, 2007 07:57,   


When exchanging money, one usually indicates the amount of money with his or her fingers. How much money does a tax official mean when he raises one finger?

In May 2005, Lee (42), who then was an employee of a regional tax office, found that a man known as Mr. A evaded 840 million won in income taxes. He asked Mr. A to provide a letter of confirmation that acknowledged his expected notified tax amount of 445 million won. When the man rejected his request, he said, “We may perform an additional tax audit.”

Then Mr. A asked him not to carry out the additional tax audit, telling him, “I will treat you well. How much do you want?” As the man insisted on it so stubbornly, Lee raised one finger, hoping to get around 10 million won. Mr. A, however, interpreted this as asking for 100 million won and, after a week, gave a bag with 100 million won in cash to Lee.

When Mr. A gave the money at a Japanese restaurant in a hotel, his supervisor, Jang, accompanied Lee. Lee brought the bag home and opened it, and he discovered that 100 million won was in the bag.

The following day, Lee informed Jang of the fact. “Is there any favor that you did for him without my knowledge?” asked Jang. “Why did you take that kind of money when the 100-percent tax was imposed? Give it back as quickly as possible.”

Lee, however, did not return the money, and 15 days later, Mr. A received a letter notifying the result of the tax audit with the expected notified tax amount of 445 million won. Only after receiving complaints from Mr. A did Lee return the entire 100 million won.

The special investigation team of the Busan District Public Prosecutors’ Office indicted Lee on charges of bribery under the Act on the Aggravated Punishment of Specific Crimes. At the first trial, Lee received a heavy sentence of five years in prison. Receiving money itself constitutes a bribery charge even if one returns the money later. Jang, the supervisor who also attended the meeting, was cleared of suspicion.

The appeals court, however, sentenced Lee to one year’s imprisonment, recognizing only 10 million won out of 100 million he received as the amount of the bribe, and finding him innocent with regard to the rest of the 90 million won. “It seems Lee thought there was 10 million won in the bag Mr. A gave him,” the court believed.

The prosecutors appealed to the Supreme Court. On April 11, the First Chamber of the Supreme Court reversed the original decision and sent the case back to the Busan High Court by ruling, “Even though Lee secretly expected to receive around 10 million won, given that he himself asked for compensation, it cannot be considered that he did not have the intention to keep the 90 million won.”

The Supreme Court went on to state, “Objective evidence cannot be found that Lee tried to return the money. He could have given it back if he wanted to, but he did not take any action until he received Mr. A’s complaints.”