SEOUL, Oct. 17 (UPI) -- South Korea's Supreme Court on Thursday upheld a lower court decision to give a suspended jail sentence to Lotte Group chairman Shin Dong-bin for his part in a massive bribery scandal that ultimately led to the impeachment of former President Park Geun-hye.
The 64-year-old Shin was convicted of transferring $6.5 million to foundations controlled by Park's confidante Choi Soon-sil in a bid to win government approval for duty-free shops.
He was sentenced to two-and-a-half years in prison in February 2018 after a months-long trial involving several family members at the top of Lotte, the nation's 5th largest conglomerate, that gripped South Korea.
An appeals court in October last year suspended the sentence for four years, freeing him from prison after seven months. It also cleared him of additional embezzlement charges.
In a press release following the Thursday decision, the Supreme Court agreed with the original appeals court's decision that Shin paid the bribes out of fear that Lotte's business would be harmed otherwise.
Lotte's businesses include food, shopping, amusement parks, hotels, chemicals and construction.
The Supreme Court on Thursday also upheld the appeals court ruling to sentence Shin Dong-bin's father, Lotte founder Shin Kyuk-ho, to three years in prison and a fine of $2.5 million.
The Thursday decision to keep Shin Dong-bin out of prison lifts a haze of uncertainty from around the leadership of the company and was welcomed by Lotte. In a statement, Lotte said, "We will strive to be a trusted company by contributing to the country and society."
Hearings are set to resume on another high-profile case tied to the former president, as Samsung heir Lee Jae-Yong faces a review of his own suspended sentence for bribery.
Lee was given a five-year sentence in December 2017, but an appeals court later suspended it, freeing the de facto Samsung leader after a year in prison. However, in August the Supreme Court ordered the lower court to review the sentencing decision, which could send Lee back to prison.
A new trial is scheduled to begin on Oct. 25.
The Supreme Court in August also ordered a review of the cases against Park and her adviser Choi. Park is currently serving a 25-year sentence while Choi is serving 20 years.
The corruption scandal surrounding Park and many of the country's top conglomerates brought millions of protesters to the streets in South Korea calling for her ouster in a "Candlelight Revolution" that led to Park's impeachment in December 2016.