South Korea just charged Uber CEO Travis Kalanick with operating an 'illegal' taxi service

Uber CEO Travis Kalanick and nearly 30 other Uber employees have been charged on suspicion of operating illegal taxi services in South Korea, the country’s Yonhap News Agency reports.

Korean police announced the move on Tuesday, and say that if Uber continues doing business in the same way, officials will seek an arrest warrant against Kalanick.

Korean authorities yesterday charged Kalanick, as well as the head of Uber Korea, which Yonhap names only by his last name, Kang, and 27 others associated with the car booking app. They are suspected of connecting passengers with drivers through the Uber app without a licence, according to Korean media. Employees and drivers are believed to be among those charged.

Uber Korea works in the same way as it does in other countries: It takes 20% of passenger fares as commission, and drivers earn the remaining 80%. Police say the money earned, without complying with the country’s transport laws, is illegal — and add that the app poses a risk to the public. They also say that cars are uninsured and believe mobile phone numbers and credit card details could be stolen.

A police officer in Korea said in a statement to Yonhap: “We plan to summon Kalanick soon and check the transaction details of overseas bank accounts to conduct further investigation into those involved in the case. If Kalanick continues to disobey the summons, we plan to seek an arrest warrant against him.”

Here’s Uber’s coverage in Korea. It’s in the capital, Seoul, and some surrounding areas:

It’s not the first time Kalanick has been charged by Korean police. In December 2014 he was indicted for violating the country’s public transport law, according to Reuters. The Seoul Central District Prosecutors’ Office said the firm operates without the appropriate licenses.

Reuters explains that in Korea, some Uber drivers are registered taxi drivers, while others are not. It looks like it’s the drivers not registered who cause problems. The government believes that there’s a lack of regulation. Seoul city officials have even passed legislation that means Uber drivers can be fined if they’re not registered.

We’ve asked Uber to put us in touch with its team in Korea for comment. Back in December, the company said in a statement that it “respects the Korean legal system” and added that it would cooperate with the charges.

No arrests have been made right now, but if the charges listed were brought to court and a conviction was made, Reuters said in December that the penalty for the law in question is a two-year prison sentence and a fine of 20 million won (about £12,000).

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