Lotte vice chairman Lee In-won found dead
  Source: BC  

The vice chairman of South Korea`s Lotte Group has been found dead hours before he was to be questioned in a corruption probe.

Police investigators said the cause of death appeared to be suicide.

The 69-year-old was due to be questioned on Friday in an inquiry into a possible slush fund and financial irregularities in the company.

Lotte has joint headquarters in Japan and South Korea, and owns businesses from hotels to chemical manufacturing.

According to local media, investigators found a four-page suicide note in his car.

Mr Lee was one of the most senior executives in the Lotte Group, holding the highest position outside the founding family that still runs the firm.

He was also the closest aide to chairman Shin Dong-bin, who is embroiled in a family feud with his older brother over control of the company founded by their father.

In a statement, Lotte Group said: "He (Lee) oversaw Lotte Group`s overall housekeeping and core businesses and accurately understood the minds of Chairman-in-Chief Shin Kyuk-ho and Chairman Shin Dong-bin."

In June, prosecutors reportedly raided Lotte offices to investigate the suspected slush fund and allegations of breaches of trust regarding transactions between the conglomerate`s companies.

About 200 officials searched Lotte`s headquarters in Seoul, several subdivisions of the firm and the homes of key executives, local media said at the time.

It is not clear where this death leaves the investigation.

Lotte Group is involved a variety of sectors including hotels, chemicals, food and retail.

It is Korea`s fifth-largest conglomerate and is considered one of Korea`s family-run "chaebols" which are known to have complex ownership structures.

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