South Korean prosecutors have expanded their investigation into the Lotte Group - with raids on at least ten firms including its biggest listed unit Lotte Chemical. Kate King reports.
BROADCAST AND DIGITAL RESTRICTIONS~ ** Broadcasters: EDITORIAL USE ONLY Digital: EDITORIAL USE ONLY**~ South Korea's Lotte group is an imposing presence. The country's fifth largest conglomerate, it has offices as far flung as Russia and Poland. And interests stretching much further. On Tuesday prosecutors expanded their investigation into the group, with raids on at least ten firms - including the biggest Lotte Chemical. It follows Friday's raids - with investigators looking into a possible slush fund as well as breach of trust involving transactions between the group's companies. SOUNDBITE (English) CHIEF INVESTMENT OFFICE, CCLA, JAMES BEVAN, SAYING: "Dereliction of duty, embezzlement, bribery and corruption, these are all things from a business point of view we have to take very seriously." The group has more than 90 firms in sectors as diverse as beer, hotels and chemicals with annual revenues of around $60 billion. A planned initial public offering on its hotel and duty free unit worth 4.5 billion dollars- has since been halted. And Lotte chemical has bowed out of bidding for a U.S. company. That's contributed to shares in both its chemical and confectionary groups falling sharply. SOUNDBITE (English) CHIEF INVESTMENT OFFICE, CCLA, JAMES BEVAN, SAYING: "I think the sentiment may actually improve on the back of this investigations because the capital system requires transparency, integrity and strong governance, the fact that the government is prepared to act to support these initiatives I do think ultimately is very helpful." Lotte Group has promised to co-operate fully with the investigation. But its understood the raids were prompted by signs officials were attempting to conceal evidence. The public fall-out won't be so easy to hide.