Lotte Group Chairman Shin Dong-bin receives interview as he arrives at Seoul Central District Prosecutors' office in Seoul,South Korea, on April 7, 2017. Shin Dong-bin was summoned Friday by prosecutors for questioning over his alleged involvement in a corruption scandal embroiling impeached President Park Geun-hye. (Xinhua/Lee Sang-ho)
SEOUL, April 7 (Xinhua) -- Chief of Lotte Group, South Korea's fifth-biggest family-controlled conglomerate, was summoned Friday by prosecutors for questioning over his alleged involvement in a corruption scandal embroiling impeached President Park Geun-hye.
Lotte Group Chairman Shin Dong-bin appeared in the Seoul Central District Prosecutors' Office, telling reporters briefly that he would sincerely face the investigation.
Shin was called in as a reference witness, but his status could be changed into a suspect in the bribery charge involving former President Park and her longtime confidante Choi Soon-sil.
Lotte donated millions of U.S. dollars to two nonprofit foundations Choi used for personal gains. It returned back additional millions of dollars to one of the foundations, right before prosecutors' raid into Lotte offices in June last year.
The return raised suspicions that Lotte may have made the donations to avoid the investigations into charges of embezzlement and dereliction of duty levied at the Lotte chief.
Park and Choi were branded by prosecutors as criminal accomplices. The former president was taken into custody for 13 charges including bribery, abuse of power, extortion and the leakage of confidential information.
Lotte has claimed no quid pro quo in the donations, saying Choi extorted the money from the retail giant using her close relationship with the former president.
The retail giant lost one of its licenses to operate duty free shops in downtown Seoul in November 2015, but the conglomerate regained it about a year later.
Shin met face-to-face with Park in March last year, before Lotte's addition donations to one of the Choi-controlled foundations.
Meanwhile, an arrest warrant for Shin was rejected on Sept. 29, 2016. It came a day before the announcement to change the U.S. Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) deployment site into a Lotte-owned golf course in southeast South Korea.
It also raised suspicions that Lotte may have exchanged its golf course for a military land in hope of avoiding the attempt to detain Shin.
The land swap deal between Lotte and the defense ministry was signed on Feb. 28, speeding up the deployment procedures. In early March, two mobile launchers and other first elements of THAAD were delivered at night to an unknown U.S. military base here.