The Korea Herald


Sewol owner's close aides deny charges as trial opens

By 옥현주

Published : June 16, 2014 - 15:50

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Several aides to the fugitive owner of the sunken ferry Sewol denied the charges against them at the start of their trial here on Monday for their alleged role in the sinking that left more than 300 people dead or missing.

Eight close confidants of Yoo Byung-eun, who owns the operator of the ill-fated ship, have been accused of embezzlement, breach-of-duty and other instances of corruption believed to have contributed to the April 16 sinking.

Prosecutors allege that the defendants, including Byeon Ki-choon, the head of Semo's shipbuilding unit Chonhaiji, inflicted between 3 billion won (US$2.94 million) and 21 billion won worth of losses on their firms to help the owner family create slush funds.

Semo is the now-defunct predecessor of Chonghaejin Marine Co., the ferry's operator.

During the hearing held at Incheon District Court in the western port city of Incheon, some of the defendants denied their charges, saying they had no intention to inflict losses on the firms and that they acted on the orders of Yoo's eldest son, Dae-kyun.     

Some defendants, including Song Kook-bin, the chief of local door-to-door sales company Dapanda Co., however, submitted written statements admitting all the charges brought against them.

The trial of the captain and 14 crew members in charge of navigating the Sewol began last Tuesday at a district court in the country's southern provincial city of Gwangju. Their second trial date is set to be held on Tuesday this week, court officials said.

Of them, the 69-year-old skipper Lee Joon-seok and three crew members have been charged with murder, prosecutors said. If convicted, they could face the death penalty. The other 11 crew members have been indicted on charges of abandonment and violating a ship safety act, they added. (Yonhap)