China / World

Lotte chief grilled over corruption

(China Daily) Updated: 2017-04-08 07:40

SEOUL - Shin Dong-bin, chief of Lotte Group, South Korea's fifth-largest family-controlled conglomerate, was summoned for questioning by prosecutors on Friday over his alleged involvement in a corruption scandal embroiling impeached president Park Geun-hye.

He appeared in the Seoul Central District Prosecutors' Office, telling reporters he would "sincerely face the investigation."

Shin was summoned as a reference witness, but his status could be changed into a suspect in the bribery charge involving Park and her longtime confidante, Choi Soon-sil.

Lotte donated millions of dollars to two nonprofit foundations Choi used for personal gains. It returned additional millions to one of the foundations, right before prosecutors raided Lotte offices in June.

The return raised suspicions Lotte may have made the donations to avoid the investigations into charges of embezzlement and dereliction of duty.

Park and Choi were branded by prosecutors as criminal accomplices. The former president was taken into custody on 13 charges, including bribery and abuse of power.

Lotte claims Choi extorted the money from the retail giant using her close relationship with Park.

The retail giant lost one of its licenses to operate duty free shops in downtown Seoul in November 2015, but the conglomerate regained it about a year later.

Shin met face-to-face with Park in March last year, ahead of Lotte's donations to one of the Choi-controlled foundations.

An arrest warrant for Shin was rejected on Sept 29. It came a day before the announcement to change the US Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) missile deployment site into a Lotte-owned golf course in southeast South Korea.

It also raised suspicions that Lotte may have exchanged its golf course for military real estate in the hope of avoiding the attempt to detain Shin.

The land swap deal between Lotte and the defense ministry was signed on Feb 28, speeding up the deployment procedures.

In early March, two mobile launchers and other first elements of THAAD were delivered at night to an unknown US military base.

Samsung scion

Meanwhile, the scion of Samsung business empire Lee Jae-yong appeared in court on Friday facing multiple charges, including bribery.

Lee listened quietly without speaking as prosecutors presented evidence they said showed why and how the 48-year-old used $38 million in corporate funds to bribe Park and Choi in exchange for supporting a smooth leadership transition at Samsung.

Samsung has denied any wrongdoing in the case and Lee has entered a pleaded of not guilty.

Xinhua - AP

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