The prosecution interrogated the late Yoo Byung-eun’s chauffeur Yang Hoi-jeong for the third consecutive day, looking for clues pertaining to the tycoon’s death.
While Yang was again summoned to the Incheon District Prosecutors’ Office on Thursday on charges of sheltering Yoo, or engaging in more grave malfeasance, the prosecution has yet to determine whether to ask the court to issue a warrant for his custody.
Yang, 55, has continued to argue that he was not informed of the whereabouts of Yoo, who died at age 73, after seeing him on May 23 or 24.
Yoo, who was placed on the nation’s most wanted list as the owner of the Sewol ferry, was found dead by a farmer in a southern city on June 12, according to police.
Investigators are striving to uncover Yang Hoi-jeong’s “real” whereabouts from May 25 to June 12, as the suspect said he was staying in Geumsuwon in Anseong, Gyeonggi Province. It is a compound for the Salvation Sect, which was led by the deceased Yoo.
Some pundits, including profilers and lawyers, allege that key members of the Salvation Sect could have instructed Yang, who was escorting then-runaway Yoo, to desert him.
According to their speculations, a power behind the religious sect masterminded a secretive mission to cut off protection of the sect leader after his misconduct was made public in the wake of the April 16 Sewol catastrophe.
“It does not seem that Yang’s actions involving his (Tuesday’s) surrender to the prosecution are being by his own decision,” said criminal psychology professor Lee Soo-jung of Kyonggi University. Lee told a TV news provider that Yang appears to be making statements at the prosecutors’ office in prior consultation with influential figures at the Salvation Sect.
Pundits stress that investigators should arrest Kim Hea-kyung, 52, a core member of the sect who is hiding aboard as soon as possible.
According to financial authorities, a large portion of Yoo’s wealth was handed over to Kim -- the chief of Hankook Pharm Co., a unit of Sewol ferry operator Chonghaejin Marine Co. -- under borrowed names.
“Kim Hea-kyung had allegedly transferred some billion won to foreign countries including the United States under borrowed bank accounts,” said an official with the Financial Supervisory Service.
The regulatory official noted that among the borrowed names was Lee Sook-ja, a former housekeeper of the Yoo family.
A lawyer said Kim has been suspected of urging devotees of the sect to buy health supplement products made by Hankook Pharm Co. by illicitly issuing loans.
While Kim’s properties are estimated to range between at least 10 billion won and 400 billion won at home and abroad, she reportedly has a son and daughter, both in their teens, residing in North America though she is legally single.
Some former sect devotees have said that Kim allegedly had an affair with Yoo Byung-eun to have the two children, though Kwon Yoon-ja is Yoo’s legal widow.
An ex-devotee claimed that Kim, who was trusted by Yoo, managed -- or possibly pocketed -- a great deal of offertories raised by the sect’s devotees.
By Kim Yon-se (email@example.com