SKorea ferry disaster suspect's daughter arrested in Paris

Ill-fated ferry's ‘de facto owner’ still at large despite tenfold reward increase, as prosecutors close in on family members

SKorea ferry disaster suspect's daughter arrested in Paris

World Bulletin/News Desk

The eldest daughter of Yoo Byung-eun – described by South Korean authorities as the de facto owner of a ferry that sank off the country's coast last month – has been arrested at her Paris home.

French authorities detained 48-year old Yoo Som-na on Tuesday on suspicion of embezzlement after a request for help by South Korean prosecutors via Interpol, according to Seoul justice ministry sources cited by the local Yonhap News Agency.

Investigators have been examining a possible link between corruption involving the Yoo family and safety lapses that could have led to the April 16 sinking of the Sewol ferry, which left more than 300 people – mostly high school students -- dead or missing.

South Korean prosecutors this week increased the reward for information that could lead them to the elder Yoo to a US$500,000 bounty, which is equivalent to the reward offered for uncovering North Korean spies.

They are also aiming to find the 73-year-old’s eldest son by offering US$100,000 for his location, as well as searching for another son.

It was not immediately clear when or if Yoo Som-na would be returned to South Korea from France, as she was due to appear before a judge Wednesday local time.

South Korea’s justice ministry said, “the government will do its best to bring her to Korea as fast as it can.”

The arrest represented the first breakthrough in a weeks-long attempt to reach the Yoo family, which has strong links to the Sewol ferry’s operator, Chonghaejin Marine Co.

The elder Yoo and his relatives have repeatedly ignored summons for questioning since the Sewol’s sinking over accusations that they created slush funds and embezzled funds.

Investigators examining the disaster’s cause have told reporters that the Sewol had been overloaded with cargo and that its crew had been inadequately trained.

A religious sect known as the Evangelical Baptist Church is suspected of supporting the Yoo family, having formed a blockade for several days around their compound south of Seoul.

Yoo Byung-eun is the son-in-law of the founder of the church, also known as the Salvation Sect.

The entrepreneur’s Semo Corp., a forerunner to Chonghaejin Marine Co. founded in 1979, was also linked with a series of accidents before going bankrupt – including the deaths of 14 workers in 1991 when one of its cruise ships was involved in a collision on South Korea’s Han River.

Last Mod: 28 Mayıs 2014, 10:14
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