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Prosecution urged to continue probe into Yoo’s family

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Published : 2014-08-07 21:06
Updated : 2014-08-07 21:42

Pundits have expressed worries that law enforcement authorities might end their investigation into the family and aides of the late Yoo Byung-eun, the owner of the sunken ferry Sewol, without publicizing meaningful results.

Among the key aspects of the probe have been Yoo’s business malfeasance and the undetermined cause of his death. Investigators say the 73-year-old was found dead on June 12.

Political commentator Park Sang-byung said Thursday that the prosecution appears to be finalizing its probe into the irregularity-saddled Yoo family and his religious group, the Salvation Sect.

He suggested that the prosecution might have given up tracing the irregular economic arrangements of Yoo, who had reportedly glossed over weakened safety of the Sewol ferry, by only arresting his oldest son Dae-kyoon and some aides at home.

The prosecution has yet to capture any family member or confidant of Yoo overseas. They include Yoo Hyuk-kee, 42, the Sewol owner’s second son and Kim Hea-kyung, 52, head of Hankook Pharm Co., a key unit of Chonghaejin Marine Co., the business group that operated the Sewol.

Commentator Hwang Tae-soon shared the view with Park. Hwang stressed that taxpayers should bear the burden of making up for a variety of damages from the April 16 sinking disaster if the prosecution gives up tracing Yoo’s wealth hidden in borrowed accounts.

The two commentators said the authorities should freeze more assets held by Yoo’s family and the Salvation Sect to place them held accountable for the disaster, which was reportedly triggered by reckless extension in the number of cabins in the vessel.

There are allegation that Chonghaejin Marine had offered kickbacks to a variety of agencies in an attempt to conceal its irregular extension and garner the certificate of ferry operation. The Sewol operator is also suspected of engaging in dubious cross-funding with its subsidiaries or affiliates. 

Critics also focus on earlier remarks of CEOs of sister firms of Chonghaejin Marine Co., who said during a trial hearing at a regional court that they “were pressured to conduct the intragroup deals by (Yoo’s former close aide) Kim Phil-bae.”

The 76-year-old Kim Phil-bae, who earlier worked as chief of Moonjin Media ― a key unit of Chonghaejin Marine ― has reportedly fled to the United States, as has Hankook Pharm chief Kim Hea-kyung.

In addition, observers, including criminal profilers and ex-devotees of the Salvation Sect, reiterate that investigative authorities should again look into the cause of Yoo’s death ― in collaboration with the state forensic agency ― by interrogating core members of the religious sect.

It is also speculated that there could be a behind-the-scenes deal between the sect and Kim Hea-kyung over distribution of the female aide’s assets, which might have been offered by the late Yoo as a form of money laundering, a former devotee of the sect said on a TV program.

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