New arrest warrant to be needed to nab Yoo

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New arrest warrant to be needed to nab Yoo

The prosecution and police are redoubling their efforts to nab Yoo Byung-eun, the de facto owner of the sunken Sewol ferry, saying they will ask a local court to reissue an arrest warrant if necessary.

The current warrant for Yoo, issued on May 22, will expire July 22. The prosecution said it will request a court to issue a new warrant if they can’t find Yoo by the deadline.

Prosecutors held a meeting with the police yesterday to discuss new ways to find the 73-year-old patriarch of the family behind the Chonghaejin Marine Company, the ship’s operator, who has been wanted since he refused to come in for questioning by the prosecution in May.

An official from the Incheon District Prosecutors’ Office, where the meeting took place, told reporters yesterday, “We will do our best to arrest Yoo by July 22.” He said they are tracking down the residences and cars of his aides, relatives and other people who were suspected of helping him escape.

According to the prosecution, a total of 115 prosecutors and investigators were dispatched to hunt down Yoo, along with 665 policemen and 2,100 Coast Guard officials as well as about 60 naval vessels searching ships that he may have used to flee abroad.

“We made efforts to search any possible places where Yoo could be hiding by investigating about 1,000 mobile phones of the members of Guwonpa [the Salvation Sect, a Christian religious group led by Yoo],” an official of the prosecution said.

The prosecution has promised an unprecedented reward of 500 million won ($490,667) for information leading to his arrest.

Despite some media reports that Yoo fled abroad, the prosecution said it believes he is still in Korea.

“Based on our investigations so far, both prosecution and police are sure that he is hiding in the country,” a prosecution official said at the briefing.

Meanwhile, relatives of the victims of the Sewol ferry disaster demanded legislators form a joint committee to propose a special bill to compensate them and punish anyone involved in the ferry’s sinking, as well as create laws to prevent another such disaster.

They held a press conference in front of the National Assembly yesterday to call for a trilateral committee composed of themselves and lawmakers from the ruling Saenuri Party and the largest opposition New Politics Alliance for Democracy.

“We don’t want the special act to become a superficial law,” they said in a joint statement. “We once again urge lawmakers to propose a special act that reflects the will of the families and the people.”

The families said the trilateral committee should have the authority to investigate and indict suspects responsible for the disaster.

The ruling Saenuri Party has rejected forming such a body. The NPAD agreed to form the committee, but expressed its reluctance to give the authority to indict a suspect, which is the exclusive right of the prosecution in Korea.

BY KIM HEE-JIN [heejin@joongang.co.kr]


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