Reckitt's Korea ex-chief jailed over toxic deaths

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The former boss of Reckitt Benckiser’s South Korean business was today sentenced to seven years in prison over the sale of a toxic product linked to almost 100 deaths.

A Seoul court convicted Shin Hyun-woo of criminal negligence after finding he failed to inspect the safety of humidifier sterilisers before they went on sale, local media reported.

The seven-year term was the harshest possible punishment for the crime. Reckitt’s Korean arm was also fined 150 million won (£101,500).

Other defendants, including former Lotte Mart chief Noh Byung-yong, were sentenced to prison over similar allegations but Google Korea boss John Lee, also a former Reckitt executive, was acquitted by the judge.

The ruling could help Durex and Nurofen maker Reckitt draw a line under the scandal. A company spokesman said today: “We hope the verdicts will mark another important stage in resolving the HS issue. RB remains deeply remorseful for the harm caused to our consumers and their families as a result of the HS tragedy. RB is taking a series of actions to ensure that our safety culture is further prioritised and embedded across our organisation.” 

The South Korean government believes 92 people have died from causes related to humidifier products, not all of which were sold by Reckitt. More than 500 people have lodged claims of lung ailments relating to the sterilisers since 2011.

“The victims had to suffer extreme pains without knowing the exact cause and ended up dying or gaining severe disabilities that require them to live with support devices for the rest of their lives. Most of the victims are young kids and their parents,” Judge Choi Chang-young said today.

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January 7, 2017 |
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