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Prosecution suspects information leaks aided ferry owner’s getaway

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Published : 2014-06-02 21:04
Updated : 2014-06-02 21:04

Investigators on Monday raised the possibility that internal information on tracing fugitive Yoo Byung-eun, the de facto owner of the sunken ferry Sewol, might have been leaked.

While an extraordinary investigation team, composed of about 70 prosecutors and policemen, has been leading the nationwide search for Yoo, the Incheon District Prosecutors’ Office alleged that Yoo or his followers could have accessed intelligence held by investigators.

A senior prosecutor in charge of the team was quoted by an online news provider as saying, “There is a suspicion that former (Semo Group) chairman Yoo’s escape in a flurry ― as brutal criminals do ― could have been conducted as soon as his followers were informed of the direction of the prosecution’s investigation.”

The No. 3 figure at the Incheon District Prosecutors’ Office also alleged that someone in a high position, possibly outside of the Salvation Sect, which is reportedly led by Yoo, may have colluded systematically to facilitate his getaway.

As a result, it is speculated that the prosecution has embarked on an internal inspection into team investigators and other staff to find out who was involved in the information leaks.

The possibility of the existence of informants in the prosecution or police comes as the two law enforcement authorities have failed to arrest the business tycoon, who is in his 70s, despite a series of raids on his residences and many other locations over the past few weeks.

The prosecution said later in the day that 10 more prosecutors and police officers would join the 70-member extraordinary team under Prosecutor General Kim Jin-tae to widen the scope of intelligence-obtaining activities.

The reinforced team is reportedly considering again raiding Geumsuwon, a religious compound in Anseong, Gyeonggi Province, amid allegations that Yoo has returned to the compound or has been hiding there all along.

In addition, the huge reward for Yoo and his oldest son Dae-gyun offered by investigative entities has caused confusion in the pursuit of the sunken ferry owner.

A number of groundless or mistaken reports from citizens across the country have been filed with the prosecution and police after authorities drastically increased the reward to 500 million won ($476,000) for Yoo and 100 million won for his son a week ago, from an initial 50 million won and 30 million won.

Police said that some citizens are making false reports in pursuit of the record-high reward, adding that they would be subject to criminal fines.

A citizen mistook a Chrysler sedan on a provincial road for a Bentley sedan formerly owned by Yoo’s son, last Friday.

According to prosecutors, medical professor Lee Jae-ok is to be charged with leading the plans for Yoo’s flight from investigators as a nationwide search for him continues. Lee is the chief of the Hemato-Centric Life Foundation, a quasi-medical unit under the wing of the Salvation Sect. Lee, in his late 40s, teaches at a medical college in a city near Seoul.

He has also been suspected of selling Yoo’s art works in an unfair manner as a close confidant of Yoo.

By Kim Yon-se (kys@heraldcorp.com)