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Lotte founder spared jail

The prosecution announced its decision Wednesday to permit a stay of execution on health grounds for ailing Lotte Group founder Shin Kyuk-ho, who would otherwise have had to serve time in prison.

The Supreme Court on Thursday upheld a lower court ruling sentencing him to three years in prison and a fine of 3 billion won ($2.55 million) for dereliction of duty and embezzlement. 

Lotte Group founder Shin Kyuk-ho (Yonhap)
Lotte Group founder Shin Kyuk-ho (Yonhap)

After the court’s decision, Shin’s lawyer requested the stay of execution, citing the 97-year-old’s ill health. The lawyer said Shin suffers from various age-related diseases: He is being treated for dementia and cannot move or communicate by himself. Shin has had a legal guardian assigned to him since 2017.

The prosecution on Tuesday convened a deliberation committee consisting of medical experts and other outside specialists and decided it would be difficult for Shin to serve his sentence, and that prison could worsen his health or even threaten his life.

A stay of execution can delay the implementation of a sentence for up to six months, and the prosecution said it intends to monitor Shin's health frequently during that time. The prosecution also restricted the ailing founder’s freedom of movement during the stay period, limiting him to the hospital and to the Lotte Hotel in Jung-gu, central Seoul, where he has resided since June.

Shin was put on trial in October 2016 over a string of charges, including evasion of roughly 600 billion won in gift taxes while transferring Lotte Holding shares to his eldest daughter, Shin Young-ja, and his common-law wife, Seo Mi-kyung. He was also found guilty of inflicting a loss of some 78 billion won on company affiliates by illicitly granting business to the concession stands operated by Seo at Lotte Cinema.

Meanwhile, the top court on Thursday upheld a suspended sentence for Shin’s son, Lotte Chairman Shin Dong-bin. A lower court sentenced the younger Shin to 2 1/2 years in prison, suspended for four years, for bribery and other offenses.

By Choi Ji-won (