SEOUL, Feb. 20 (Yonhap) -- A Seoul court on Thursday sentenced a pastor of one of the world's largest Christian churches to three years in prison with a five-year stay of execution for embezzling large amounts of church funds.
Rev. Cho Yong-gi, the founder and pastor emeritus of Yoido Full Gospel Church in Seoul, was found guilty of causing some 13 billion won (US$12 million) worth of losses to the church by instructing church officials to buy stocks privately owned by his eldest son, Cho Hee-jun, at prices four times higher than market value, in 2002.
The elder Cho was also convicted of dodging 3.5 billion won in taxes in the process.
The Seoul Central District Court also ordered the 78-year-old disgraced pastor to pay a fine of 5 billion won.
In the same ruling, the court handed down a prison term of three years to the junior Cho, the former CEO of the church-affiliated local daily Kookmin Ilbo, for colluding with his father in the embezzlement scheme.
An investigation into the Cho family was launched last year after a group of members belonging to the church filed a suit for breach of trust and tax evasion.
The church, which claims it has around 800,000 members, has often made headlines in the recent past over a series of internal feuds and various corruption allegations.
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