By Minwoo Park
SEOUL – Former South Korean K-pop star known as Seungri was sentenced to three years in prison and fined nearly $1 million on Thursday after a court convicted him of crimes including procuring prostitutes for potential investors, local media reported.
The trial of Seungri, whose real name is Lee Seung-hyun, is part of a far-reaching scandal involving a network of pop stars, businessmen and cops alleged to have colluded and enabled tax evasion, bribery, and prostitution at some of the glitziest clubs in Seoul’s swanky Gangnam district.
Lee, 30, a former member of hit group BIGBANG, was called up for mandatory military service shortly after his indictment, prompting his trial to be transferred to a military court.
The court found Lee guilty of nine charges, including embezzling funds from the nightclubs, overseas gambling, and procuring prostitutes for foreign investors in his business, Yonhap reported. South Korean citizens are banned by law from gambling at casinos even when travelling abroad.
Lee, who appeared in uniform at the military court in Yongin, south of Seoul, shook his head as he listened to the sentence, which also included an order for him to pay a fine worth 1.15 billion won ($990,000).
Reuters attempts to reach the military court and Lee’s lawyer for comment were not immediately successful. Lee denied most of the charges.
The scandal, which was centred around several nightclubs that Lee was involved in, also swept up other K-pop stars, including Jung Joon-young and Choi Jong-hoon, who in 2019 were sentenced to six and five years in prison, respectively, after they were convicted of gang-raping a woman.
Jung was also found guilty of filming the assault and distributing the footage, which came to light when police were investigating Lee. Sentences for both Jung and Choi were later reduced.
YG Entertainment Inc, the agency that had represented Lee until he was forced to quit the entertainment industry after the allegations surfaced in March 2019, was not immediately available for comment on the ruling.
Lee made his official debut in August 2006 along with BIGBANG‘s four other members: G-Dragon, T.O.P, Taeyang and Daesung. They are not implicated in the scandal.
BIGBANG is still wildly popular despite the four remaining members taking breaks for their military service, which all completed in 2019. A comeback reunion was planned for the Coachella music festival last year, but the event was cancelled due to the pandemic.
($1 = 1,163.29 won)