Lotte Group chairman stays out of jail as South Korea court ruling upheld

FILE PHOTO: Lotte Group chairman Shin Dong-bin attends a news conference in Seoul, South Korea, October 25, 2016. REUTERS/Kim Hong-Ji/File Photo/File Photo

SEOUL (Reuters) - South Korea’s Supreme Court on Thursday upheld a ruling by a lower court that freed Lotte Group Chairman Shin Dong-bin from jail after he had served several months for bribery charges involving the country’s former president.

The Supreme Court ruling means that Shin will remain out of jail, as it upholds a decision last year to suspend the remainder of his jail sentence, pending good behavior over four years.

The decision boosted shares of Lotte Corp 004990.KS, the holding company of retail-to-chemicals giant Lotte Group. Lotte Corp rose as much as 4.2%, while flagship retailer Lotte Shopping Co Ltd 023530.KS gained nearly 2%. The broader KOSPI market .KS11 was 0.1% lower at 0305GMT.

“We will try to become a trustworthy company as we contribute to the nation and society,” Lotte Group said in a statement following the Supreme Court’s decision.

Shin was initially sentenced to a two-and-a-half-year prison sentence in February 2018 for bribing a close friend of former President Park Geun-hye as he sought to earn a government license for Lotte’s duty free business. Park had been ousted amid an influence-peddling scandal in 2017.

Shin was convicted of providing 7 billion won ($5.90 million) to one foundation controlled by Park’s close friend in return for favors to win a duty free license.

Shin appealed the sentence to the Seoul High Court, which suspended the jail sentence for four years, freeing him from jail in October 2018 after he had served seven months. Thursday’s Supreme Court ruling upheld that decision.

The decision on Shin's case came as appeals continue in a separate bribery case against Samsung Group's 005930.KS de facto chief Jay Y. Lee, who was given a five-year jail term in 2017 for seeking favors from Park's administration.

The Seoul High Court similarly gave Lee a four-year suspended sentence on appeal after he had spent a year in detention. The case was sent back to that court for review last month, potentially raising the chances of Lee returning to jail. A new trial is scheduled to commence next Friday.

Reporting by Heekyong Yang; Additional reporting by Ju-min Park; Editing by Jane Wardell