Runaway Yoo Byung-eun’s wife and brother-in-law denied charges that they pocketed funds of sister firms of Chonghaejin Marine Co., the operator of the capsized ferry Sewol.
The Incheon District Court on Monday held the first trial hearing on three family members of Yoo, the owner of the sunken ferry.
The attorney for his wife, Kwon Yoon-ja, dismissed the charges issued by the prosecution that Kwon embezzled 29.7 billion won in company funds ($29.1 million) in February 2010.
Kwon’s attorney also argued that she did not misappropriate the 2.9 billion won in funds ― raised by devotees of the Salvation Sect, which is led by her husband Yoo ― for her own personal use.
The attorney for Kwon Oh-kyun, Yoo’s brother-in-law, also denied the allegation that he pocketed 29.7 billion won in company funds together with his sister Yoon-ja.
The two Kwons have been indicted for applying for illegal financial loans using the wealth of the Salvation Sect as collateral.
Kwon Yoon-ja is a daughter 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 was declared heretical by the denomination.
Kwon Oh-kyun was working for the Chonghaejin group as chief of Trigon Korea, a core affiliate of Chonghaejin Marine Co. He is also one of the key leaders of the sect.
In contrast, Yoo’s older brother Byung-il partly admitted to the charges during the trial hearing at the same court; he was also indicted for being implicated in embezzlement or other irregularities.
But the attorney denied the charges that the older brother called on Chonghaejin Marine to pay him on a monthly basis in return for offering advisory services, though he admitted to the allegations of irregular business practices committed by Yoo’s older brother.
The elder Yoo has been grilled by prosecutors over consulting fees he allegedly received, the owner family’s suspected misappropriation of funds and the whereabouts of the fugitive ferry owner.
Meanwhile, the Incheon District Court again issued an arrest warrant for Yoo Byung-eun, who has been evading a massive manhunt for nearly two months. He has been at large since the April 16 sinking disaster that claimed more than 300 lives.
His first arrest warrant, which was issued on May 22, expires on July 22. The court issued the new warrant with a six-month expiration date.
The court said it took into consideration various factors such as the prosecution’s efforts to capture him.
By Kim Yon-se (firstname.lastname@example.org