Lotte chair wanted on graft charge
SOUTH Korean prosecutors yesterday requested a warrant to arrest Lotte Group chairman Shin Dong Bin as the criminal investigation into alleged graft at South Korea's fifth-largest conglomerate nears its climax.
The Seoul Central District Prosecutors' Office said it has asked the local court to issue an arrest warrant for the group's highest-ranking executive on charges of embezzling and misappropriating some 170 billion won (S$209 million) over the past decade.
The 61-year-old Lotte chairman is suspected of overseeing a series of illegal inter-affiliate transactions as well as being involved in the creation of several slush funds worth tens of billions of won through Lotte's core units.
Shin, with other members of the Lotte founding family, is also charged with reaping as much as 10 billion won in gains, simply by being listed as a board member of Lotte's Korean and Japanese affiliates, without fulfilling any substantial responsibilities.
Lotte Group released a statement yesterday expressing "regret" at the warrant request and pledged to "fully appeal to the court during the arrest warrant hearing and await the court's wise decision".
The Seoul Central District Court is expected to hold a hearing tomorrow to determine the validity of the warrant request, according to local news reports.
The business tycoon was summoned for questioning last Tuesday, fuelling speculation that the incumbent chairman would soon be indicted.
At the time, Shin had reportedly denied most of the allegations against him, according to local reports.
His detention would deal yet another blow to the embattled Korean-Japanese retail giant, which has been under heavy investigation for embezzlement, breach of trust and tax evasion since June.
The probe led Lotte to scrap its plans for a US$4.5 billion (S$6.1 billion) initial public offering of the group's hotel unit Hotel Lotte and halt its push to expand its business globally.
THE KOREA HERALD/ASIA NEWS NETWORK