Seoul - After a lengthy investigation and trial, the Seoul District Court has sentenced the pastor of the Gospel Yoido church - one of the best known Protestant congregations of the South Korean capital - to 3 years in prison and a fine of almost 5 million dollars. The man, David Yonggi Cho, was found guilty of defrauding the church of 13.1 billion won (about 9 million Euros) and tax evasion amounting to 3.5 billion. His son (Cho Hee- hun, former chairman of the Yeongsan Christian Cultural Center) was also sentenced to 3 years in prison: he was immediately jailed, while his father obtained a suspension of 5 years.
The case against the pastor and his leadership began in 2013, when - at the request of his son - Pastor Cho 's church set aside funds to buy 250 thousand shares in the stock market. The shares were quoted at about 35 won each, but they were bought at 87 won leading to a disbursement paid by the faithful amounting to more than 13 billion won. Immediately after the verdict, supporters of the pastor sparked a small riot outside the court destroying reporters' cameras.
The story of the mega- church scandals still seems far from over. On November 30, 2013, a group of 30 "elders" of the congregation reported the pastor and a group of his loyalists for embezzlement and corruption to a value of approximately 500 million US dollars. Ha Sang -ok , who was part of the group for nearly two decades, admits to being involved in some fraud : " In the last 14 years I have seen and done bad things. I tried to convince the pastor to stop, but he paid no attention. His behavior is not that of a Christian, but like that of a guru of a sect".