Yoo’s alleged asset manager denies all allegations

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Yoo’s alleged asset manager denies all allegations

The Incheon District Prosecutors’ Office yesterday requested a detention warrant for Kim Hye-kyung, 52, the CEO of Korea Pharmaceuticals, who is believed to have handled assets belonging to Yoo Byung-eun, the late patriarch of the family that owned the Sewol ferry, on allegations of embezzlement and tax evasion.

Yoo was found dead nearly four months ago in an orchard in South Jeolla. The massive manhunt for the 73-year-old business mogul captured the nation’s attention in part because of the expanse of his repertoire, which included work as a photographer, a religious leader and an entrepreneur.

The prosecution suspects that Kim purchased Yoo’s photographs at high prices, embezzling 2.1 billion won ($1.97 million) from the company. Prosecutors are also questioning her over suspicions that she evaded paying 1.5 billion won in taxes by fabricating product sales at the pharmaceutical company.

“We requested the warrant because she might flee, given that she was on the run in the United States for such a long time and was repatriated back to Korea,” said a prosecutor.

Kim was returned to Korea on Tuesday. She denied all the allegations against her following three days of questioning.

The prosecution is also trying to determine whether her assets, which add up to more than 30 billion won, are actually the late businessman’s but registered under her name. Authorities believe it is unlikely she could have accumulated such massive wealth on her own.

Additionally, Kim is believed to have siphoned off about 20 billion won from the Evangelical Baptist Church, the sect Yoo co-founded with his father-in-law in the 1960s, to buy real estate and stocks under her name and those of her acquaintances.

The prosecution announced Wednesday that Kim owns more property in Yongin, Icheon, Pyeongtaek and Gangneung, as well as land worth 10.4 billion won listed under Kim’s name in Gangnam District, southern Seoul, in addition to unlisted stocks worth about 12 billion won from six affiliates of Yoo’s Chonghaejin Marine Company, which operated the Sewol ferry.

She denied the allegation that Yoo used her name to hide his wealth, saying she accrued the assets independently.

The prosecution has restricted the sale of the land in Gangnam District and is planning to do the same for Kim’s other alleged properties.

BY KIM BONG-MOON [bongmoon@joongang.co.kr]

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