Lotte founder’s wife may be forcibly summoned

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Lotte founder’s wife may be forcibly summoned

The government will rescind the passport of Seo Mi-kyung, wife of Lotte founder Shin Kyuk-ho, to force her back to Korea from Japan.

According to the prosecution, Shin, 94, is accused of evading 600 billion won ($550 million) in taxes and costing the company some 78 billion won.

Shin in 2006 handed over 6.2 percent of Lotte Holdings in Japan to his third wife, Seo, their daughter, Shin Yu-mi, and his eldest daughter, Shin Young-ja.

The eldest daughter is executive director of the Lotte Scholarship Foundation.

In the process, he allegedly evaded paying gift tax and transfer tax by way of using a shell company and other means.

Shin is suspected of having directed Lotte Group employees to research whether there was a way to hand over the shares without paying taxes.

“I requested employees to find a way to save on taxes, not to evade them,” Shin reportedly told prosecutors. “If I failed to pay any taxes, I will pay them.”

Shin reportedly added, “The statute of limitations on the shares deal has expired. Plus, the gift tax should be paid by those who received the shares, not the one who gives them out.”

Prosecutors will be terminating the passport of Shin’s 57-year-old common-law wife, Seo.

She is currently living in Japan and is accused of receiving the Lotte Holdings shares without paying taxes.

“We’ve requested Seo to return to Korea to cooperate with the investigations repeatedly, but she did not comply,” a prosecution official said.

The official added, “Prosecutors from Wednesday began a process to forcibly summon Seo and spoke with the Ministry of Justice and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to terminate her passport.”

If Seo’s passport is terminated, she may be forced to leave Japan by law.

Prosecutors visited Shin’s home on the 34th floor of the Lotte Hotel in Sogong-dong in central Seoul on Thursday to question him on his alleged corporate malpractice charges.

Shin was summoned to the Seoul Central District Prosecutors’ Office on Wednesday.

Prosecutors, however, received a request from Shin asking that they conduct the questioning at his home, considering his age and poor health. They subsequently decided to question him there on Thursday after checking with his doctor.

After visiting his home, prosecutors said, “Shin denied most of the charges against him.”

BY HYUN IL-HOON [chung.juhee@joongang.co.kr]

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