A South Korean court yesterday convicted three relatives of the sunken Sewol ferry’s owner and other associates for corruption, about four months after the tycoon was found dead on the run.
The body of fugitive billionaire Yoo Byung-eun was discovered in rural South Korea in July after a weeks-long manhunt. Authorities allege that his corruption likely contributed to the ferry sinking in April that killed more than 300 people, most of them schoolchildren.
They say Yoo controlled ferry operator Chonghaejin Marine Co through a complex web of holding companies in which his children and close associates are large shareholders.
Yesterday, Yoo’s eldest son, Yoo Dae-gyun, was sentenced to three years in prison for embezzlement and breach of trust, Incheon District Court spokesman Jang Joon-ah said.
Two of Yoo Byung-eun’s brothers were convicted of similar corruption charges. One brother got a two-year prison term and the other was sentenced to one year in prison, but his sentence was suspended for two years, Jang said.
Ten of the late tycoon’s associates were also sentenced to up to four years in prison over embezzlement and other corruption charges, Jang said, adding that all parties have one week to appeal.
Prosecutors have demanded the death penalty for the ferry’s captain and life sentences for three crew members. Those verdicts are to be delivered later this month.
In France, a court was due to decide yesterday whether to extradite on embezzlement charges Yoo Byung-eun’s daughter, Yoo Som-na, who is wanted in South Korea on suspicion that she embezzled about 6 million euros (US$7.5 million) from subsidiaries owned by the family company.
South Korean authorities believe that the alleged embezzlement contributed to safety defects that led to the April disaster.
Yoo Som-na was detained in Paris in May on an Interpol arrest warrant filed by Seoul. If extradited and convicted in South Korea, she faces up to 45 years behind bars.
One of her lawyers, Herve Temime, said she risked forced labor if she returned home, making her extradition “shameful.”
Another defense lawyer said: “Does anyone think for one second that she will get a fair trial?” to which the prosecutor retorted: “South Korea is not North Korea.”
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