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Lotte chair appears before prosecutors in corruption probe

Posted September 20

— South Korean prosecutors questioned Lotte Group's chairman, Shin Dong-bin, on Tuesday in a corruption probe at the country's fifth-largest business group.

"I am sorry for having caused concern," Shin told reporters in a live televised broadcast outside the Seoul Central District Prosecutors' Office. He said he would cooperate with the investigation.

Lotte started as a chewing gum company in Japan in 1948 but now operates businesses in chemicals, food, shopping and hotels, including South Korea's largest discount and department store chains. Its brands are well recognized not only in Japan and South Korea but around Southeast Asia.

The months-long investigation into allegations of slush funds, embezzlement and tax evasion in the conglomerate was halted temporarily after the group's vice chairman, a top aide to Shin, was found dead in August in a suspected suicide just hours before he was to face questioning.

In June, the probe led Lotte to withdraw an initial public offering plan for Hotel Lotte Co. that could have raised up to 5.7 trillion won ($5.1 billion).

Apart from the probe, Shin and his elder brother, Shin Dong-joo, are embroiled in a bitter battle for control of the Lotte group.

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