Seizing all of late Yoo’s assets proving difficult

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Seizing all of late Yoo’s assets proving difficult

Amid an investigation into the unexpected death of Yoo Byung-eun, the patriarch of the family that owned and operated the doomed Sewol ferry, questions have arisen over whether authorities will be able to seize the 73-year-old’s properties in full.

Much of Yoo’s assets are registered under the names of his aides, including Kim Hye-kyung, the head of a pharmaceutical affiliate, and Kim Pil-bae, the head of a publishing offshoot.

Kim Hye-kyung, 52, who previously managed Hankook Pharmaceutical, is believed to have fled overseas in order to evade arrest. Kim Pil-bae is also on the run and suspected to have owned property belonging to Yoo.

However, even if investigators are able to apprehend the two fugitives, the death of the elder patriarch will inevitably complicate their efforts.

In his absence, authorities must locate documents or a contract that proves nominal trust between Yoo and his aides at large.

The amount of compensation for families of the victims and the cost of recovering the Sewol is estimated to be between 400 billion won ($389 million) and 600 billion won. When counting indirect damage, the total could surpass estimates.

The government used public funds to assist the families of the dead or missing and carry out rescue operations, though it is determined to hold the operator of the ferry accountable for those charges through an indemnity suit.

As part of efforts to collect back assets, the court yesterday approved additional seizures of savings held by Yoo’s heirs: Kwon Yoon-ja, his wife; Yoo Dae-gyun, his oldest son; Hyeok-gi, his second son; Yoo Seom-na, his oldest daughter; and Yoo Sang-na, his second daughter.

With the exception of Yoo Sang-na, the rest of his family members are either under investigation or on the lam in connection with financial irregularities in running the family business. Authorities also hope to seize assets hidden in overseas shell companies.

The Incheon District Prosecutors’ Office last month raided the offices of two shell companies and two subsidiaries. The two fronts, Parrotbill, owned by the oldest son, and Key Solution, owned by his second son, are alleged to have been used for the management of slush funds and illicit foreign trade.

They are believed to have obtained some 20 billion won from the ferry operator’s affiliates over the years.

In cooperation with the prosecutors’ office, financial watchdogs, including the Financial Supervisory Service (FSS) and the National Tax Service, are jointly seeking to seize Yoo’s real estate.

So far, those watchdogs have seized more than 100 billion won worth of property. Yoo and his family are estimated to own at least 240 billion won in assets, including stocks and real estate in other countries, as well as five mansions and luxury apartments in the United States.

BY PARK EUN-JEE [ejpark@joongang.co.kr]





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