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[Ferry Disaster] Ferry owner’s in-law indicted for embezzlement

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Published : 2014-06-24 21:10
Updated : 2014-06-24 21:10

The prosecution on Tuesday indicted a brother-in-law of Yoo Byung-eun, de facto owner of the sunken ferry Sewol, on charges of shady 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.

This marked the first time that a family member or relative of Yoo was handed over to the court for a trial.

Kwon has worked for the irregularity-saddled Chonghaejin Marine Group as chief of Trigon Korea, one of the few main units. He is also one of the key leaders of the Salvation Sect, which is reportedly led by the 73-year-old Yoo.

Investigators alleged that the irregular funding or embezzlement conducted by Kwon came to 29 billion won ($28.4 million)

While the Incheon District Court is reviewing an arrest warrant request from prosecutors for Kwon’s sister and Yoo’s wife, Kwon Yoon-ja, the court on Tuesday issued a warrant to take Yoo’s younger brother, Byung-ho, into custody.

Investigators arrested Yoo Byung-ho, 62, last Sunday. He is the father-in-law of singer-songwriter Park Jin-young, CEO of JYP Entertainment.

As with some relatives and the wife of Yoo Byung-eun, the 62-year-old Byung-ho has been picked up on the suspicion of embezzlement, totaling about a billion won, from Chonghaejin Marine’s sister firms.

The indicted Kwon and his sister Yoon-ja are children of the late pastor Kwon Shin-chan, who reportedly created the Salvation Sect with Yoo Byung-eun, his son-in-law. While the sect leaders claimed that it was an evangelical Baptist church, it had been labeled as heretical by the denomination.

Yoo’s wife has been under suspicion of pocketing company funds of a sister firm of Chonghaejin Marine Co. and funds raised by devotees of the Salvation Sect. Investigators said she was estimated to have embezzled as much as 1 billion won.

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