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Founder of S. Korea's Lotte Group given 4 years jail

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Seoul (AFP)

The wheelchair-bound nonagenarian founder of South Korea's embattled Lotte retail conglomerate was convicted of embezzlement and breach of duty Friday and sentenced to four years in prison.

Shin Kyuk-Ho, 95, founded the group in Tokyo in the late 1940s, before building it into a sprawling giant that today has dozens of units focused on food, retail and hotel businesses in South Korea and Japan.

But it has been a target of state probes since Shin's two sons made headlines with a fight for control of the group, featuring public mudslinging and personal attacks on each other.

The founder, three of his children, and his mistress were all in the dock on multiple charges at the Seoul Central District Court.

Shin was convicted of embezzling at least 128.6 billion won ($119 million) from the firm to the benefit of his relatives and given a four-year sentence, although the court allowed him to remain free on health grounds pending an appeal -- he has diseases of old age, including dementia.

He caused 77.8 billion won in damages to the group by renting out Lotte Cinema's shopping malls at discounted rates to his eldest daughter and mistress, the court ruled.

The daughter was jailed for two years, while the mistress was given a suspended sentence.

Shin and his son and successor Dong-Bin were also found guilty of giving another son, Dong-joo, and the mistress a total of 50.8 billon won ($47.2 million) in wages from Lotte units in South Korea for whom the two never worked.

Dong-Bin also received a suspended sentence, while Dong-Joo -- who lost the bitter succession battle -- was cleared.

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