Seoul court denies arrest warrant for Lotte Group chairman; corruption probe continues

Thu Sep 29, 2016 4:59am EDT
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By Joyce Lee

SEOUL (Reuters) - A South Korean court rejected a request by prosecutors for a warrant to arrest Lotte Group Chairman Shin Dong-bin in the latest twist in a wide-ranging corruption probe that has convulsed the country's fifth-largest family-run conglomerate.

But an investigation that has constricted management since flaring into public in June, derailing plans for billion-dollar deals, will continue. Prosecutors may re-submit their request, a prosecution source said, and warrant or not, Shin could yet face trial - a process that with appeals could last many months.

A Seoul Central District Court judge said early on Thursday the arrest warrant request had been turned down after a hearing at which Shin, 61, appeared on Wednesday. The court said it didn't view Shin's arrest as necessary.

The probe into the retail to chemicals group had uncovered embezzlement or breach of trust involving about 170 billion won ($155 million), the prosecution source said, without specifying a time frame.

Shin's father, the 93-year-old Lotte Group founder Shin Kyuk-ho, was pushed aside last year in a bitter succession feud between his two sons and was questioned by prosecutors previously in the probe.

A Lotte Group spokesman said many of the suspicions raised by prosecutors against Shin Dong-bin concerned dealings that had been conducted at his father's behest, an explanation the current chairman set out at the Wednesday hearing.

Prosecutors rejected that argument and were critical of the court's move to dismiss the request for an arrest warrant.

"We very much regret that it was denied due to chairman Shin Dong-bin's unreasonable claim that it was his father exercising management control" over dealings under investigation, the prosecution source said.   Continued...

Lotte Group chairman Shin Dong-bin arrives at a court in Seoul, South Korea, September 28, 2016.  REUTERS/Kim Hong-Ji