Dead Ferry Owner’s Close Aid Arrested in America
luvsmiling, Sept. 11, 2014, 8:53 a.m.
A close aide to ferry owner Yoo Byung-eon believed to have managed his vast slush fund was arrested in the U.S. Kim Hye-kyung (52) is the head of a health food company, one of a slew of dubious businesses run by Yoo and his family. With her arrest, authorities are confident they can seize more of Yoo's assets to compensate the victims of the April 16 ferry disaster and pay for the massive search and rescue operation.
But two suspects remain at large, accused of leading roles in the corruption and embezzlement that allowed ferry operator Chonghaejin Marine to flaunt safety regulations. They are Yoo Hyuk-ki (42), the owner's younger son, and Kim Pil-bae, another disciple of Yoo senior's cult who headed a publishing affiliate.
According to the Justice Ministry here, U.S. authorities arrested Kim last Thursday in a shopping mall in McLean, Virginia for visa violations. Kim went to the U.S. in late March, just before the ferry disaster, and refused to obey three summonses from prosecutors here.
Korean authorities were hoping Kim would eventually turn herself in when she ran out of money after four months on the lam, but when she was arrested she was carrying US$8,000.
The ministry canceled Kim's and Yoo Hyuk-ki's passports in May and put them on Interpol's most wanted list while asking U.S. law authorities for cooperation to arrest them.
The ministry will ask the U.S. to deport her as soon as possible, but if she fights extradition like Yoo’s daughter Sum-na (48), who was arrested in France, it could be a long time before she can be brought back.
Kim is also accused of misappropriating and embezzling billions of won from Yoo's business network, a practice his whole inner circle apparently engaged in to fund his crackpot cult and luxury lifestyle. As an undischarged bankrupt he officially had no assets to his name.
A prosecution spokesman said the ongoing investigation may well turn up more ill-gotten gains.
For now prosecutors are more interested in the role Kim played in Yoo’s business network since she held sizable stakes in the group's crown jewels.
She was also the only person other than Yoo's children who owns the trademark to some of the group's brands. Prosecutors believe Kim has been the de-facto treasurer of the Yoo family since her early 20s and probably holds the key to unlocking their elaborately concealed treasures.