• Wednesday, August 20, 2014

SKorea ferry police in huge raid

BBC Online
In this April 17, 2014 file photo, South Korean rescue team members try to rescue passengers trapped in the ferry Sewol sinking in the water off South Korea's southern coast near Jindo. Photo: AP
In this April 17, 2014 file photo, South Korean rescue team members try to rescue passengers trapped in the ferry Sewol sinking in the water off South Korea's southern coast near Jindo. Photo: AP

Thousands of South Korean police have raided a church in search of a fugitive billionaire wanted over April's Sewol passenger ferry disaster.

Some 6,000 officers stormed the church in Anseong city belonging to Yoo Byung-eun, who is thought to own the firm that operated the sunken ferry.

Three church followers were detained on charges of assisting his escape.

At least 292 people died in the ferry disaster. Fifteen crew members went on trial over the deaths on Tuesday.

Ferry captain Lee Joon-seok, 69, and three others face the most serious charge of "homicide through willful negligence".

A separate trial of senior executives blamed for procedural lapses is due to start later this month.

President Park Geun-Hye this week urged police and prosecutors to step up a nationwide manhunt for Yoo.

"Yoo must be brought to justice," Park said.

Yoo is wanted as part of an ongoing investigation into embezzlement and tax fraud.

Investigators are also questioning whether corruption or mismanagement within the ferry company led to poor safety standards.

Yoo, 74, a leading religious figure, is believed to own the Chonghaejin Marine company that operated the sunken ferry.

Hundreds of church followers built a blockade in front of the compound but did not try to stop the police from entering the premises, Yonhap news agency reported.

The followers were said to have been staging a sit-in, arguing that the church had nothing to do with allegations raised by investigators.

A similar raid of the church's main compound in May turned up no trace of him.

South Korean authorities have raised the reward for information on his whereabouts to almost $500,000 (£300,000).

Published: 11:21 am Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Last modified: 8:48 pm Wednesday, June 11, 2014

TAGS: South Korea Sewol Yoo Byung-eun

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