SEOUL (Reuters) - A South Korean appeals court said on Friday it found the chairman of Lotte Group guilty of charges including bribery and breach of trust, but suspended his jail term, setting him free.
A lower court had sentenced Shin Dong-bin in February to two years and six months in prison for his role in an influence-peddling scandal that roiled the country and led to the ouster of former South Korean President Park Geun-hye.
Shin appealed and the Seoul High Court on Friday upheld his conviction, but suspended the jail sentence for four years, freeing him after more than seven months in detention.
Shin was convicted for providing 7 billion won ($6.20 million) to two foundations controlled by the former president’s close friend in return for favors to win a duty free license.
The Seoul High Court said in its decision that Shin’s crime resulted from a request by the former president.
“It could have been difficult for Shin to directly decline President’s request as she was the country’s highest power,” the court said.
Lotte Group said it welcomed the court’s decision to release its chairman.
“Lotte will strive to contribute to the country’s economy and to become a firm that takes full social responsibility,” it said in a statement.
Samsung Group’s de-facto leader Jay Y. Lee was also convicted of corruption in the same bribery scandal.
But he later became a free man back in February after the appeal court suspended his sentence.
Reporting by Haejin Choi; additional reporting by Heekyong Yang, Editing by Muralikumar Anantharaman and Darren Schuettler