The ailing founder of South Korea's fifth-largest conglomerate, Lotte Group, appeared in court with two sons and his common-law wife in the first hearing of trial on charges of alleged tax evasion, embezzlement, and other irregularities.
Prosecutors indicted Shin Kyuk-ho, 94, and his two sons in October last year -- group chairman Shin Dong-bin and his brother Shin Dong-joo. They were not detained physically.
The founder's daughter, Shin Young-ja, has been sentenced to three years in prison in January on embezzlement and other charges after she was found guilty of taking kickbacks from a cosmetics firm in return for favorable placement in Lotte's duty-free shops.
The founder was accused of evading gift taxes by handing over shares and assets to his third wife, Seo Mi-kyung, and other family members. Seo, 57, is the 1977 winner of the group's Miss Lotte beauty pageant and served as a model. She has a daughter with the founder.
It was Seo's first public appearance since prosecutors launched a probe into Lotte last year. The founder allegedly transferred a 6.2-percent stake in Lotte Holdings to Seo and other family members. Lotte Holdings is the group's de facto holding firm based in Tokyo. The group has sprawling businesses in South Korea and Japan.
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