Lotte boss appears for questioning in S Korea corporate probe

Lotte boss appears for questioning in S Korea corporate probe

South Korean prosecutors on Tuesday questioned Lotte Group Chairman Shin Dong-bin, the most senior executive to face interrogation as part of a sweeping criminal probe into the country's fifth-largest conglomerate.

Investigators will ask Shin about suspected embezzlement and breach of trust as well as other suspected corporate crimes at Lotte Group, a prosecution source with direct knowledge of the matter told Reuters on Monday.

As a boss at the time of the alleged crimes, Shin, 61, is expected to be a key witness in the investigation which has already seen dozens of Lotte Group officials called in for questioning and company offices raided.

"I am sorry for causing concerns. I will sincerely co-operate with the prosecutors' investigation," Shin told reporters before attending a closed questioning session at the Seoul Central District Prosecutors' Office.

The probe, which began in June, has already scuppered Hotel Lotte's planned US$4.5 billion (S$6.3 billion) IPO, hampered potential M&A deals and served as the backdrop of the apparent suicide of one of the group's top executives last month.

Prosecutors also questioned Shin's father and Lotte Group founder, Shin Kyuk-ho, as well as elder brother Shin Dong-joo earlier this month.

As chairman Shin is currently in control of the group which has 103.3 trillion won (S$125.8 billion) in assets as of April. Shin has been in a dispute with his elder brother over control of the group since last year.

The prosecution source, who declined to be identified as the probe is ongoing, said the investigation would likely reach a conclusion by early October.

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