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Warrant sought for Sewol owner’s wife

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Published : 2014-06-22 20:51
Updated : 2014-06-22 20:51

The prosecution is set to ask the Incheon District Court to issue an arrest warrant for the wife of the Sewol ferry owner to keep her in custody. She was seized on Saturday.

Investigators captured runaway Yoo Byung-eun’s wife, Kwon Yoon-ja, at an apartment in Bundang, south of Seoul, while her husband and oldest son Dae-gyun are still on the nation’s most wanted list.

Kwon, who was staying at the apartment with her two aides early Saturday, was handed over to the Incheon District Prosecutors’ Office later in the day. Police said they found 110 million won ($107,600) in cash where the three women were residing.
Kwon Yoon-ja. (Yonhap)

Like Yoo and his children, Kwon is suspected of conducting a variety of misconducts as the head of a sister firm of Chonghaejin Marine Co., the operator of Sewol.

Prosecutors said they plan to request an arrest warrant for the 71-year-old suspect no later than Monday to interrogate her over the whereabouts of Yoo and their oldest son.

She is the daughter of the late pastor Kwon Shin-chan, who reportedly created the Salvation Sect with Yoo Byung-eun. While the sect leaders claimed that it was an evangelical Baptist church, it was labeled as heretical by the denomination.

She has been suspected of pocketing company funds and religious funds raised by devotees of the Salvation Sect. Investigators said she was estimated to have embezzled as much as 1 billion won ($952,000).

Kwon declined to answer questions from the media on whether she admitted to embezzlement charges and on the hideouts of her family.

Prosecutors clarified that they would look into how much money she embezzled and what roles she played in the escape of her husband and son, as well as whether she was aware of their whereabouts.

Until now, five family members or relatives of fugitive Yoo have been detained, including his older brother Byung-il and his brother-in-law, Oh-kyun.

Meanwhile, the Financial Supervisory Service has revealed that Woori Bank did not notify the financial regulator of the shady deals between Yoo and the Chonghaejin affiliates.

Between 2010 and 2012, Yoo and his family engaged in irregular fund transfers, which are collectively worth at least 10 billion won via Woori Bank accounts, said FSS officials.

The commercial bank informed the FSS of the dubious deals after the ferry disaster occurred on April 16, though any financial services firm is obliged to notify financial authorities of extraordinary money transfers immediately.

A financial market insider alleged that Woori was the only first-tier bank that overlooked the mandatory rules of report, adding the 73-year-old fugitive had made transactions via accounts at other lenders.

Woori Bank takes up about 25 percent, or 92.6 billion won, of the financial sector’s combined outstanding loans of 374.7 billion won to Yoo’s family and Chonghaejin Marine units.

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