Investigators on Wednesday arrested the brother-in-law of Yoo Byung-eun, de facto owner of the sunken ferry Sewol, for engaging in dubious intra-group deals as the head of a unit of Chonghaejin Marine Co., the operator of the ill-fated vessel.
According to the Incheon District Prosecutors’ Office, the suspect Kwon Oh-kyun allegedly pocketed company funds to illicitly transfer to the fugitive Yoo and his children.
Kwon is working for the irregularity-saddled Chonghaejin group as chief of Trigon Korea, a core of sister firm of Chonghaejin Marine. He is one of the key leaders of the Salvation Sect, which is reportedly led by Yoo.
Earlier in the day, Investigators arrested a close aide of Yoo Dae-gyun, the oldest son of Byung-eun for helping the wanted businessman flee.
The 57-year-old aide, surnamed Lee, has been suspected of providing Dae-gyun with hideouts by driving unregistered vehicles as a chauffeur. He was captured at an apartment complex in the Yeongtong District in Suwon, Gyeonggi Province.
According to the prosecution, Lee is also under suspicion of handling slush funds held by Yoo’s family, which included offertories given by devotees of the Salvation Sect reportedly led by the Sewol owner.
The prosecution is set to ask the Incheon District Court to issue an arrest warrant for Lee to take him into custody after interrogating him over allegations that he played a key role in Dae-gyun’s getaway and concealed illicit profit raked in by the Yoo family.
Investigators allege that the eldest son has hidden himself in an area in North Gyeongsang Province.
Last weekend, a sedan, owned by the aide Lee, was found in Naegok-dong in southern Seoul. Some misreports claimed that Dae-gyun was spotted getting in the backseat of the car.
As of 11 p.m., Wednesday, the investigative team composed of more than 80 prosecutors and policemen have arrested 13 confidants of Yoo Byung-eun and his son.
Six of the 13 were placed into custody while the court rejected custody warrants for two suspects. The three have been released and the remaining two were Kwon and Lee.
While the prosecution has come under public criticism for failing to seize the two fugitives despite nationwide manhunts over the past few weeks, the law enforcement agency is considering again raiding Geumsuwon, a Salvation Sect compound in Anseong, Gyeonggi Province, after the June 4 local elections.
Key allegations include that Yoo, whose three children ― Dae-gyun, his second son Hyuk-gi and oldest daughter Seom-na ― own stakes in the firm through dozens of sister firms, is responsible for lax safety practices, such as cargo overloading, and created the circumstances that ultimately triggered the sinking of the ferry.
Yoo and his children are also under the suspicion of misusing three paper companies to create slush funds and improperly transferring money abroad by pocketing company funds.
The arrest warrant for custody, which was issued on May 22, for the 73-year-old Byung-eun expires on July 22.
By Kim Yon-se (email@example.com)