S. Korea court releases Lotte chairman from jail
The chairman of South Korean retail giant Lotte Group was released from jail on Friday after an appeals court suspended four years his sentence in a massive corruption scandal that brought down former president Park Geun-hye.
Shin Dong-bin, 63, was jailed for 30 months in February for providing seven billion won ($6.2 million) to a foundation controlled by Park’s secret confidante in return for state favours regarding Lotte’s duty-free business.
“It is judged that the donation was made with the expectation of some reciprocity,” a court statement said.
But Shin made the payment “passively” after a demand from the president, it added, and “feared consequences on his business if he declined to do so”.
“It is difficult to hold him accountable for bribery when he had limited freedom on making the decision,” the statement said.
Shin was the second head of a top conglomerate to be jailed for seeking to curry favour with Park after Samsung heir Lee Jae-yong was imprisoned for allegedly paying billions of dollars.
Lee was also released in February when most of his bribery convictions were set aside on appeal.
Lotte — the fifth largest conglomerate in South Korea — began as a chewing gum company in Japan in 1948 but now operates businesses in chemicals, food, retail and hotels.
The South Korean economy is dominated by giant family-controlled firms known as “chaebol” like Lotte, which powered a decades-long economic boom but have long had murky ties with authorities.