Disgraced Samsung boss returns after presidential pardon

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South Korea's richest man, Lee Kun-hee, has rejoined Samsung in a remarkable return to the electronics giant he left two years ago just before he was convicted of tax evasion.

Mr Lee had been chairman of the Samsung Group for 20 years but resigned in April 2008 before he was handed a three-year suspended prison sentence for not paying taxes on income of 4.5 trillion won (£2.6bn).

His slate was wiped clean when President Lee Myung-bak pardoned the billionaire in December. The move freed Mr Lee, a member of the International Olympic Committee, to help South Korea's bid to host the Winter Olympics in 2018. Since the pardon, many had predicted that he would return to the company his father founded in 1938.

Mr Lee's return as chairman of Samsung Electronics, rather than the whole group, was agreed at a meeting of company presidents yesterday. Reports in Seoul said Samsung made entreaties to Mr Lee in February because it wanted to call on his "seasoned management skill and leadership".

Following his return, Mr Lee, 68, warned that the world economy was in "a true crisis now". "Top-rank global corporations are collapsing," he said, adding: "That could happen some time, and somehow, even to Samsung."