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Prosecution receives tip-offs regarding fugitive Sewol owner

All Headlines 16:45 May 23, 2014

prosecution-Sewol owner

Wanted over Sewol

Prosecution receives tip-offs regarding fugitive Sewol owner

INCHEON, May 23 (Yonhap) -- Prosecutors said Friday that they have received various tip-offs from the public about the whereabouts of the de facto owner of a sunken ferry since he was put on the most-wanted list.

Yoo Byung-eun -- an entrepreneur, artist, ex-convict and religious figure -- is believed to own Chonghaejin Marine Co., which operated the ferry Sewol that sank off the southwest coast last month, leaving more than 300 people dead or missing.

After a district court issued a warrant to detain Yoo, prosecutors on Thursday immediately asked police to label Yoo and his eldest son, Dae-kyun, as fugitives, and announced a 50 million won (US$48,800) reward for information leading to the elder Yoo's arrest and a 30 million won reward for his son.

"We have received many tip-offs after putting Yoo on the wanted list," Kim Hoe-jong, a senior prosecutor investigating the case, said in a press briefing.

Prosecutors said they are closely monitoring ports across the country with the cooperation of the Coast Guard amid the possibility that the mysterious owner could stow away to a foreign country aboard a ship.

The investigators also said they have indicted Park Seung-il, Yoo's close aide and an auditor for I-One-I Holdings, the holding company of Chonghaejin Marine, on charges of embezzling 12.6 billion won in company funds.

The prosecution suspects that corruption by Yoo, whose two sons own stakes in the firm through various subsidiaries, resulted in lax safety practices, such as cargo overloading, and created circumstances that ultimately led to the April 16 sinking.

The prosecution further alleged that the Yoo family established three paper companies to create slush funds and illegally transfer money abroad by embezzling corporate funds while failing to fulfill their duty of properly managing various affiliates.

Prosecutors have tried to determine whether the family illegally used the ferry operator and other businesses to accumulate a fortune, but the family members have ignored their summonses.

As part of efforts to find and arrest the two, a team of prosecutors and investigators on Wednesday entered premises belonging to the Evangelical Baptist Church, where the two were suspected of hiding.

After an intensive search of the sprawling religious compound nestled between mountains near Anseong, just south of Seoul, prosecutors, however, failed to locate the father and the son.


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