Appeals court acquits professor of fabricating reports for Oxy

SEOUL, April 28, 2017 (Yonhap) — An appellate court on Friday overturned a lower court’s decision and acquitted a professor of manipulating a report in favor of Oxy Reckitt Benckiser in a high-profile toxic humidifier disinfectant case.

The professor at Seoul National University, identified only by his last name Cho, was indicted in May 2016 on charges of writing a report between 2011 and 2012 that said there was no clear relationship between the substances in Oxy’s products and lung damage.

The humidifier disinfectant case, one of the worst scandals involving a consumer product using chemicals, came to light after four pregnant women died of lung problems from unknown causes in 2011.

A government-led investigation later confirmed a connection between scores of people who died of lung problems and the chemicals used to clean household humidifiers.

The Seoul High Court said it cannot acknowledge that the professor intentionally omitted data and inappropriately reached a conclusion for Oxy.

“The report released by Cho also included probe results that were very unfavorable to Oxy,” it said.

A lower court had sentenced Cho to two years in prison, viewing the 12 million won (US$10,600) he received from the company as a de facto bribe in return for the report which it said was biased.

The appeals court, however, acknowledged the money as a legitimate consultancy fee.

Still, the high court upheld the district court’s ruling that convicted Cho of fraud and sentenced him to a year in prison, suspended for two years. He was accused of swindling some 56 million won from the university which was given for goods payments.

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