Daughter of Sewol operator returns home

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Daughter of Sewol operator returns home

Yoo Som-na, eldest daughter of Yoo Byung-eun, the late patriarch of the family behind the operator of the doomed Sewol ferry, will be extradited from France to Korea and is set to arrive at Incheon International Airport around 3 p.m. today.

“The Korean and French authorities have entered the process of extraditing Yoo,” said a Korean prosecution official who asked not to be named. “Yoo will board a flight operated by a Korean airline from Paris Charles de Gaulle Airport and land at 3 p.m. here.

“She will be arrested by Korean prosecutors and investigators upon boarding the plane,” the official added. “Once she enters the Korean aircraft she will be on Korean territory and authorities can arrest her there.”

Yoo is scheduled to be transported to the Incheon District Prosecutors’ Office upon her arrival at the airport.

She has been sought by authorities with an arrest warrant from 2014 that is valid until 2028. Yoo is accused of embezzling 49.2 billion won ($43.9 million) in a business involving former affiliates of her father’s company and her brother, Dae-gyun.

After the Sewol ferry sank on April 16, 2014, off Korea’s southwestern coast and killed 304 people, the 73-year-old patriarch of the business, Yoo Byung-eun, and his family were pinpointed as key figures behind the accident.

Yoo Byung-eun went on the run but was found dead on June 12, 2014, bringing to an end the nationwide manhunt. His bounty was nearly $500,000 at the time.

Yoo’s family members have been arrested and tried in Korea on charges including embezzlement, except his eldest daughter Som-na and second son Hyeok-gi. Hyeok-gi’s whereabouts are still unknown.

Som-na was sought by authorities from April 2014, when she was abroad. She refused to comply with prosecution summons to Korea, and prosecutors requested that Interpol issue a Red Notice, which is a request to locate and hold a person pending extradition.

She was arrested at an apartment in Paris in May 2014 and within the same month, the local court decided to try her while detained.

The appellate court ruled for her extradition in January 2015. Yoo then filed an appeal to the French Court of Cassation, with authority comparable to the Supreme Court here. It overturned the appellate court’s ruling in April 2015. Yoo’s lawyer at the time told reporters that the reasons provided by the Korean government in its extradition request were found lacking.

After additional trials, the Court of Cassation in March 2016 ruled that Yoo must be extradited, and French Prime Minister Manuel Valls also signed her extradition paper.

But she had ongoing legal procedures at Conseil d’Etat, the highest administrative court in France, since she filed a case in September 2015. In France, the Court of Cassation has the final authority on civil and criminal suits, while the Conseil d’Etat has the final authority on administrative litigations.

The Conseil d’Etat dismissed Yoo’s case last month, saying there is no reason to annul the extradition decision by the Court of Cassation, bringing an end to all legal procedures on Yoo in France.

BY HYUN IL-HOON, ESTHER CHUNG [chung.juhee@joongang.co.kr]
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