NOV 10, 2023
Korean Supreme Court acquits Dunamu Chairman Song Chi-hyung
The Supreme Court of South Korea, in a significant ruling on Thursday (local time), acquitted Song Chi-hyung, chairman and principal stakeholder of Dunamu, of fraud and forgery charges, according to a report by local news agency Yonhap. This ruling is particularly noteworthy because Dunamu is the operator of the nation’s largest cryptocurrency exchange, Upbit.
This decision, led by Justice Oh Kyung-mi, marks the culmination of a legal battle that began with Song’s indictment in Dec. 2018, and it extends to the acquittal of the company’s Chief Financial Officer (CFO) and the head of the Data Value Team, who were jointly indicted.
Background of the case
Song Chi-hyung and his colleagues were alleged to have fabricated an account on Upbit between September and November 2017. They had been accused of feigning the deposit of assets valued at KRW 122.1 billion and then employing these fictitious funds to enable transactions among actual members.
The prosecution also leveled fraud charges against them, claiming that the fabricated account was utilized to sell 11,550 bitcoins to 26,000 members, thereby generating KRW 149.1 billion.
The Seoul Southern District Court, acting as the court of first instance, found them not guilty. The court reasoned that the evidence presented by the prosecution was insufficient to establish that the defendants actually deposited the assets in the account.
Issues with the prosecution’s evidence gathering
The Seoul High Court, serving as the appellate court, identified problems with the evidence provided by the prosecution, determining that part of it lacked credibility due to improper collection methods. Notably, the court observed that the prosecution had directed Dunamu employees to access their Amazon cloud server to download the account’s transaction history. However, since this remote server was not included in the search and seizure warrant, the court highlighted the illegitimacy of the evidence.
The appellate court also pointed out another issue with the evidence: documents stored on the CFO’s USB drive. The prosecution did not follow the legitimate search process, which requires them to extract only data related to the allegations. Moreover, the prosecutors did not present a warrant when confiscating the laptop of the Data Value Team’s lead, further undermining the credibility of their evidence.
The court further stated that even if the remaining evidence provided by the prosecution was considered viable, it was still insufficient to substantiate the prosecution’s accusations.
The prosecution, disagreeing with the decision of the appeals court, had escalated the case to the Supreme Court. However, the highest court in the nation sided with the ruling of the appeals court, effectively upholding the decision made at the appellate level.