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[Ferry Disaster] Ferry owner still at large 2 months after sinking

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Published : 2014-06-25 21:24
Updated : 2014-06-25 21:24

The prosecution has yet to arrest the fugitive Yoo Byung-eun though it has been more than two months since the law enforcement agency barred the Sewol owner from leaving the nation on April 21.

It has been more than one month since the prosecution initially raided Geumsuwon, a compound of the Salvation Sect south of Seoul, which is led by the 73-year-old fugitive. Investigators forced their way into Geumsuwon twice: on May 21 and June 11.

Further, Yoo’s second son, Hyuk-gi, fled abroad right before the overseas travel ban was slapped on the ferry owner and about 30 other irregularity-ridden suspects including his relatives and heads of Chonghaejin Marine Co. affiliates.

Reportedly failing to determine the whereabouts of Yoo and his oldest son, Dae-kyun, both of whom have been on the nation’s most wanted list, prosecutors have only captured his wife, brothers and in-laws.

While French investigators arrested Yoo’s oldest daughter, Seom-na, in Paris in late May, it is uncertain whether the Korean prosecution will successfully garner French judges’ approval for extraditing her to her homeland.

Investigators also reportedly withdrew their full-fledged tracking activities in Suncheon, South Jeolla Province, where Yoo was suspected to have been hiding.

The prosecution, however, claims that it is putting psychological pressure on the two fugitives ― Yoo and his oldest son ― by continuously arresting relatives.

Its actions have included taking Yoo’s older brother, Byung-il, and wife, Kwon Yoon-ja, into custody, and indicting his brother-in-law Oh-kyun for irregularities involving the embezzlement of funds held by Chonghaejin Marine’s units or raised by devotees of the Salvation Sect.

The Incheon District Court is also expected to issue an arrest warrant for Yoo’s younger brother, Byung-ho, as requested by the prosecution.

Investigators apprehended Yoo Byung-ho last Sunday. He is the father-in-law of singer-songwriter Park Jin-young, chief executive 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 the 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.

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

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

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