South Korean Prosecutors Seek Eight-Year Prison Term for Former Bithumb Chairman

South Korea’s financial landscape is once again under scrutiny as the legal battle surrounding Lee Jung-hoon, the former chairman of Bithumb, South Korea’s second-largest crypto exchange, unfolds. The latest twist in this high-stakes case saw prosecutors requesting an eight-year prison sentence for Lee Jung-hoon, who stands accused of orchestrating an $85 million fraud.

The trial at the Seoul High Court’s Criminal Division entered a critical phase on the 18th as the prosecution made a fervent plea to overturn the previous ruling, urging the court to uphold the initial eight-year imprisonment decision. This plea comes on the heels of the lower court’s verdict, which acquitted Lee Jung-hoon, citing the absence of binding clauses in the investment agreement between Lee and BK Group Chairman Kim Byung-gun regarding the BXA coin listing on Bithumb.

Former Bithumb Chairman Lee Jung-hoon

At the core of the prosecution’s argument lies the accusation that Lee deceived Kim Byung-gun by proposing BXA’s listing on Bithumb, subsequently inflicting substantial financial losses on him. The prosecution vehemently contests the lower court’s ruling, claiming that Lee was well aware of the risks associated with the proposed structural changes within the exchange, alleging a deliberate manipulation exploiting informational imbalances.

The prosecution further contends that during the contract negotiation phase, Lee failed to adequately address the practical challenges surrounding the BXA coin’s listing. As the hurdles materialized, Lee allegedly made no effort to overcome them and withheld the delisting decision from Kim Byung-gun while still accepting secondary contract payments and additional collateral.

In response, Lee’s defense has challenged the consistency of the victim’s statements, asserting inconsistencies in Kim Byung-gun’s testimony and emphasizing the victim’s initial proposal for Bithumb’s acquisition. Additionally, Lee’s legal team delves into the process of the coin listing, highlighting discrepancies between the prosecution’s premise and Kim Byung-gun’s knowledge of the listing proceedings, citing messages from him inquiring about the progress to financial authorities.

Lee Jung-hoon, in a final statement, expressed his trust in Kim Byung-gun’s capability to lead the company and foster its growth, emphasizing his belief in the increased value of the remaining shares should the chairman succeed. Lee maintained his compliance as a seller but expressed frustration over delayed payments, attributing the sudden legal action to a request for an extension on payment deadlines.

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