Lotte Group suspected of setting up slush fund in Vietnam
VietNamNet Bridge – Some Korean newspapers Yonhap, the Korea Times and the Korea Herald cited sources as saying that Lotte Group is suspected of creating a slush fund in the process of investing in real estate in Vietnam through a paper company, involving several affiliates.
The 65-storey Lotte building in Hanoi.
Lotte is known as a giant retailer that entered Vietnam in 2014. It is also the investor of a 65-storey building in Hanoi, which consists of a 5-star hotel, a business center, residences and offices for rent.
For the US$400 million project, Lotte Asset Development, the group's real estate investment arm, bought Coralis, a special purpose company based in Luxembourg, for $60.2 million. Luxembourg is known as one of the world's major tax havens.
Lotte Shopping and Hotel Lotte, two major affiliates of Lotte Group, each bought a 45 percent stake, lowering Lotte Asset Development's ownership to 10 percent.
But Coralis logged a net loss of 55.1 billion won last year, which lead to suspicions that Lotte pushed for the project despite financial burden on the group.
Prosecutors suspect Lotte Group has overestimated expenses of the paper company to exaggerate losses as a way to create a slush fund for the owner's family, according to multiple sources.
Lotte has denied such allegations, saying it bought the paper company to acquire the right to do business and lease land in Vietnam.
Prosecutors suspect Lotte Group has declared increased cost of "paper company" to inflate damages as a way to set up a fund for the family-owned BANK???'? of this group.
Lotte has denied this and said the trust had acquired "the company on paper" to get the right trading and leasing land in Vietnam.
"Establishing a special purpose company is a business strategy adopted by most companies when they invest overseas or push for development projects to apply under local regulations and improve operational efficiency," a senior Lotte official said.
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