Police entered a church retreat Wednesday to find and detain two church followers who are suspected of helping the fugitive owner of the sunken ferry Sewol evade a massive manhunt.
A group of some 4,000 police officers, armed with court-issued warrants, entered the sprawling religious compound belonging to the Evangelical Baptist Church, in Anseong, just south of Seoul, around 8 a.m.
Investigators suspect that the two female followers assisted Yoo Byung-eun, who is believed to own Chonghaejin Marine Co., the operator of the ferry Sewol that sank off the southwest coast on April 16. Yoo remains an influential founding member of the religious sect.
Corruption by Yoo, whose two sons own stakes in the ferry operator through various subsidiaries, allegedly resulted in lax safety practices, such as cargo overloading, and created conditions that ultimately led to the tragedy that left more than 300 people dead or missing, the investigators said.
Hundreds of worshipers built a blockade in front of the huge retreat, nestled between mountains near Anseong, 77 kilometers from Seoul, but did not try to stop the police from entering the premises.
The worshipers have been staging a sit-in at the gate, arguing that the church has nothing to do with the allegations raised by the investigators.
The raid comes nearly 20 days after a team of prosecutors and police entered the premises to arrest the owner and his eldest son.
After hours of an intensive search, the team failed to locate the two. (Yonhap)