Body of fugitive S. Korea ferry tycoon ‘found by police’: report
South Korean police believe they have found the body of a fugitive business tycoon wanted after the Sewol ferry sank in April killing hundreds, a report said.
A massive manhunt had been launched for billionaire Yoo Byung-eun, a 73-year-old patriarch whose family own ferry operator Chonghaejin Marine Co. He went on the run shortly after the vessel sank killing over 300, most of them school children.
A heavily decomposed body found last month by police has matched the DNA of Yoo’s older brother, Yonhap news agency reported early Tuesday, leading police to believe they have located the fugitive businessman’s corpse.
Yonhap reported that the body was discovered on June 12 in a plum field in Suncheon, a city 300 kilometres south of Seoul. The body was lying face up and was clothed in a winter jacket and hat.
“We carried out a DNA test after finding a dead body in Suncheon, and the results fairly matched that of Yoo’s brother,” a police official said, quoted by Yonhap. “We need to look more closely into this, but the body is believed to be Yoo’s.”
Yoo was wanted for questioning on possible charges of embezzlement and criminal negligence, as prosecutors investigate the extent to which the disaster was caused by a lack of safety standards and regulatory violations.
Many of his family members have been arrested following the ferry disaster including his wife and his brother. A daughter is fighting an extradition bid from Paris and his eldest son is still on the run.
Earlier this month South Korean prosecutors filed embezzlement charges against his 71-year-old wife Kwon Yun-Ja.
The charges were unrelated to the ferry sinking, and involved the alleged embezzlement of money from a splinter religious group established by Kwon’s father.
In June thousands of police officers conducted a raid on a major church complex looking for Yoo.
A reward of 500 million won ($603,395) has been offered for information leading to the capture of Yoo and 100 million won for that of his eldest son, Yoo Dae-Kyun.
Yoo has no direct stake in Chonghaejin, but his children and close aides control it through a complex web of holding companies.
The ferry disaster stunned South Korea, knocking the entire country off its stride and unleashing widespread public anger, as it emerged that incompetence, corruption and greed had all contributed to the scale of the disaster.
President Park Geun-Hye and her administration have been bitterly criticised for their response to the disaster.
The captain in charge of the Sewol at the time it went down and 14 crew members are currently on trial for murder.
The crew were publicly vilified in the wake of the tragedy, and there been some expressions of concern about how fair their trial can be in such a charged atmosphere.