Evidence against Yoo discoveredProsecutors have uncovered evidence suggesting that Yoo Byung-eun, the de facto owner of the operator of the sunken Sewol ferry, was actually involved in the management of the shipping company, a revelation that could speed up justice against him.
The Incheon District Prosecutors’ Office said yesterday that it had obtained an internal organization chart that names Yoo as the president after raiding the offices of the Chonghaejin Marine Company and its affiliates.
The 73-year-old business tycoon is the founder of Semo Group, the predecessor to Chonghaejin.
He is widely considered to be the master of the entire family business, which encompasses cosmetics, paint and organic food manufacturers.
Yet the investigators had a hard time proving Yoo’s influence because he doesn’t hold any formal position or shares in the company.
The prosecution said that the informal organizational structure chart appears to have been distributed to employees in lieu of an official one.
Proving Yoo’s involvement in the operation is essential to verifying whether his family’s and his alleged misconduct led to poor safety management of the operator and contributed to the ferry disaster on April 16 that has so far left 269 people dead and 35 still missing.
Yoo and his two sons now face a range of charges, including tax evasion, embezzlement and illicit foreign trade.
In a widening investigation, prosecutors questioned and sought arrest warrants for three of Yoo’s close aides, though they have yet to summon the family patriarch.
The elder Yoo is expected to be brought in for questioning next week after authorities wrap up inquiries for his business partners and close figures.
Prosecutors intensified their investigation yesterday by seeking a court warrant to detain Yoo’s second son, Hyeok-gi.
They will also seek the help of U.S. investigation agencies, including the FBI, to step up efforts to summon Hyeok-gi, who holds a majority stake in Chonghaejin.
He and Yoo’s aides all refused to comply with the prosecution’s request to turn up for questioning.
The prosecution ordered them to show up at the Incheon District Prosecutors’ Office in the western port city of Incheon by 10 a.m. yesterday, though no one appeared.
Tomorrow, the authorities will also summon a renowned veteran actress who is suspected of being one of Yoo’s close allies.
Kim Kyung-sook, better known by her stage name Jeon Yang-ja, is the head of two subsidiaries and a religious facility linked to the elder tycoon.
The 72-year-old actress is accused of facilitating or covering up financial irregularities allegedly committed by the Yoo family.
As part of the probe, Kim Han-sik, the chief executive of Chonghaejin, was arrested yesterday at his home in Bundang, Gyeonggi, and brought in for questioning, investigators said.
Charges against him include negligence of duty, which is a violation of the act on safety, they added.
They also allege that Kim directed or attempted to conceal the overloading of cargo on the Sewol.
The probe revealed that during its last fatal journey, the 6,825-ton ferry was loaded with cargo weighing three times the maximum limit.
The vessel was carrying 476 passengers on April 16 when it capsized and sank in waters off Korea’s southwestern coast.
BY PARK EUN-JEE [email@example.com]
Correction and rebuttal statement by the Evangelical Baptist Church
The Korea JoongAng Daily, regarding the reports since April 16, 2014, about the Evangelical Baptist Church (EBC) and Yoo Byung-eun, is publishing the following corrections and an excerpt from the rebuttal statement by the EBC.
Through three past investigations by the prosecution, it has been revealed that Yoo and the EBC, also known as the “Salvation Group” and Guwonpa in Korean, are not related to the Odaeyang mass suicide incident. That was also confirmed by the prosecution in its official statement on May 21. The prosecution’s investigation also found that Yoo had not made an attempt to smuggle himself out of the country or seek political asylum in France. We, therefore, correct the concerned reports.
Yoo retired from his executive management position in 1997. He did not own any shares in the noted companies, nor had he managed operations or used the operating funds for personal reasons. There are no grounds to call him the actual owner and chairman of the company. As such, he did not provide any directives in regards to the overloading of the Sewol ferry or its renovation.
It was verified that the captain and crew members who abandoned ship at the time of the Sewol ferry accident are not members of the EBC. It has also been verified that the EBC does not own any shares of Chonghaejin Marine Company and did not engage in its management.
The EBC’s position is that the museums in the United States and Europe can never authorize an exhibition unless the artistic value of an artist’s works is recognized by the screening committee, irrespective of the amount of money an artist donates. The EBC’s position is that the exhibitions were not a result of Mr. Yoo’s patronage or donation, and Yoo also has not coerced Chonghaejin and its affiliates to purchase his photos.
The EBC states that Yoo did not participate in the foundation of the EBC in 1981, and the church does not offer him the title “pastor.” It also says a significant part of the 240 billion won ($206 million) worth of assets suspected of belonging to the Yoo family are real estate properties owned by the farming associations, which had been established by church members.
The EBC states that there are certain churches in Korea that call the EBC a cult, solely based on differences between their’s and the EBC’s doctrines.
But the EBC does not worship a particular individual as a religious sect leader or preach any doctrine that contradicts the Bible.