Oldest Son of Ferry Owner Found Guilty of Embezzlement

D-Bo , Nov. 5, 2014, 5:21 p.m.


The oldest son of Yoo Byung Eon, Yoo Dae Gyun was found guilty of embezzlement or misappropriating funds from family controlled businesses.  Yoo Byung Eon was a South Korean religious leader, businessman, and inventor, who as a photographer was known under the art name Ahae  Due to his reclusiveness, he was known as "the millionaire with no face".

Believed to be the de facto leader of the company operating the ferry MV Sewol that sank en route from Incheon towards Jeju on 16 April 2014, Yoo had gone into hiding and was Korea's most-wanted fugitive, after the Incheon District Court issued an arrest warrant on 22 May. South Korean authorities initially offered a ₩50 million (~US$48,800) reward for information leading to the arrest of Yoo. On 25 May the reward was raised tenfold to ₩500 million (~US$488,000). On 21 July, it was reported that a body found in a field in June is believed to be Yoo's.

The Yoo family has been accused by authorities for embezzling nearly $169 million USD from several companies they control, including the Chonghaejin Marine Company as well as Yoo Byung Un's church. Authorities believe that because the family stole millions from the Chonghaejin Marine Company's funds, the company was unable to provide the proper safety measures which could have prevented the Sewol Ferry incident from happening. According to prosecutors, the company had to overload its ships in order to make up for losses caused by the embezzlement. The Sewol Ferry was carrying cargo double the ship's capacity on the day it had sunk. 

On November 5, Yoo Dae Gyun was found guilty of taking nearly $6.8 million dollars since 2002 from seven companies. He was sentenced to 3 years in prison.

Other family members convicted for embezzlement include Yoo Dae Gyun's uncles and Yoo Byung Un's brothers, Yoo Byung Il and Yoo Byung Ho. While the former was convicted of taking $119,000 USD from Chonghaejin Marine Company and received a suspended sentence, the latter was convicted of taking $2.7 million USD from another company and sentenced to 2 years in prison. In addition, 13 executives from the family-owned companies were convicted for aiding in the embezzlement, with four sentenced to prison terms of two to four years.

Currently, South Korean authorities are charging Yoo Byung Un's daughter Yoo Seom Na for embezzlement as well. However, as Yoo Seom Na was arrested in Paris, she is fighting to have her trial to be held in Korea. Meanwhile, South Korean authorities have asked the U.S. to help arrest Yoo Byung Un's other son Keith H. Yoo, who resides in America. 

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