The Seoul High Court’s 5th Criminal Division, under the guidance of Presiding Judge Seo Seung-ryeol, delved into an appeal hearing regarding fraud charges amounting to 110 billion won against former Chairman Lee Jeong-hoon. The prosecution urged a reconsideration of the initial ruling, pushing for an 8-year prison sentence identical to the first trial’s decision.
Former Chairman Lee stands accused of inflicting 110 billion won in damages through an alleged deception involving BK Group Chairman Kim Byeong-gun. The deception centres around proposals for the joint management of Bithumb and assurances of listing BXA (Bithumb Coin) on the platform. Despite the prosecution seeking an 8-year prison term in the first trial, Lee was acquitted, citing a non-binding clause in the investment agreement.
The prosecution contends that Lee aimed to restructure Bithumb’s governance to evade financial regulations and profit from exchange coins, exploiting a notable information asymmetry. This, they argue, paved the way for the execution of a plan fraught with risks, which were allegedly transferred to the joint underwriter.
Highlighting Lee’s awareness of the challenges in listing BXA coins, the prosecution claims he verbally assured the victim of feasibility while withholding the associated difficulties. When confronted with actual listing challenges, Lee purportedly made no attempts to address them and, ultimately, decided against the listing. The prosecution maintains that Lee’s acceptance of additional payments without informing the victim constitutes intentional deception.
The defence countered by questioning the consistency of the victim’s statement, referencing the original trial court’s doubt regarding Chairman Kim’s credibility. They presented testimonies suggesting that Kim initially proposed the acquisition of Bithumb.
In addressing allegations related to the listing process, the defence pointed to Chairman Kim’s inquiry in January 2019 regarding the progress with the Financial Supervisory Service. This challenges the prosecution’s premise that Kim was unaware of the coin’s listing status.
In his closing statement, Lee expressed surprise at the revelation of the victim’s intent to acquire the company through President Lee Sang-jun. He affirmed his belief in Chairman Kim’s leadership capabilities and commitment to the company. Lee attributed payment delays to the buyer.
The court has scheduled the appeal hearing for former Chairman Lee on January 18th next year. The outcome remains uncertain as legal arguments continue to unfold.