New arrest warrant reissued for ferry owner Yoo

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New arrest warrant reissued for ferry owner Yoo

Incheon District Court yesterday reissued a pre-trial arrest warrant for Yoo Byung-eun, the de facto owner of the Sewol ferry’s operator Chonghaejin Marine Company, who has evaded a massive manhunt for over two months.

The court’s move came after Incheon prosecutors requested a renewed warrant following two months of failed attempts to find the 73-year-old businessman, who is also the founder of a Christian cult known as the Salvation Sect, or Guwonpa.

“Yoo has shown signs of systematic fleeing and there is a need to put pressure on the fugitive,” said Judge Ahn Dong-bum, who issued the warrant. Ahn added that he took into account “the prosecutors’ will to capture” the wanted man.

The renewal of the warrant came as the arrest warrant issued May 22 was set to expire today. The Incheon court issued the first warrant after Yoo did not show up for prosecution questioning. Yoo also failed to attend a hearing to examine the validity of a pre-trial arrest warrant requested by prosecutors.

The new warrant’s expiration date is January 22, 2015. The prosecutors’ request reflects their conclusion that the Sewol’s owner is still hiding somewhere in the country despite speculation that he fled the country, such as to China, on a boat from the west coast in the Jeolla region,

The authorities are offering a reward of 500 million won ($486,500) for any information that could lead to Yoo’s capture. They are offering a reward of 100 million won for information leading to the capture of Yoo’s eldest son Dae-gyun, 44.

Prosecutors believe Yoo’s mismanagement of the ferry operator, including embezzlement, led to overloading of cargo and lax safety oversight that led to the April 16 sinking that left more than 300 people dead or missing, mostly high school students on a school trip to Jeju Island.

Law enforcement has so far mobilized 1.3 million policemen at various times in the manhunt to capture Yoo, who was convicted of embezzlement and served four years in prison in the early 1990s.

Adding pressure on the fugitive, an Incheon court yesterday seized an additional 34.4 billion won of Yoo’s assets on top of 71 billion won already frozen. The prosecutors estimate Yoo raised 139 billion won through alleged embezzlement, breach of trust and tax evasion.

BY KANG JIN-KYU [jkkang2@joongang.co.kr]




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