South Korea ferry mishap: $50,000 reward for informaton on billionaire owner

The disappearance of billionaire and his son has caused a media frenzy in South Korea

Seoul: South Korea is offering a $50,000 reward for information about the missing billionaire who owned the ferry that sank off the coast of southwestern island of Jindo on April 16, leaving more than 300 people dead or missing.

The disappearance of billionaire Yoo Byung-eun and his son has caused a media frenzy in South Korea. Yoo is a member of a church that critics call a cult and is linked to a 1987 mass suicide; church members deny involvement in the sinking.

Yoo, 73, was thought to be holed up in a sprawling church compound near Seoul, and there was a tense, days-long standoff between police and hundreds of church followers, some of whom reportedly threatened to die as martyrs.

But Yoo wasn't there when church members on Wednesday finally opened the compound to authorities, and some speculated that he may have fled to the home of a church follower. Prosecutors and police then announced a reward of 50-million South Korean Wons (US $50,000) reward for information about Yoo's location, and 30 million won ($30,000) for details about his eldest son.

Yoo, head of the now-defunct predecessor of the ferry's current operator, Chonghaejin, allegedly still controls the company through a complex web of holding companies in which his children and close associates are large shareholders.

Yoo faces allegations of tax evasion, embezzlement and professional negligence. Prosecutors have said they suspect that the April 16 ferry sinking may have happened because Chonghaejin illicitly funneled profits to Yoo's family, and so failed to spend enough money on safety and personnel. His son, Yoo Dae-gyun, faces embezzlement allegations.

In recent years, Yoo has worked as a photographer under the name of "Ahae," and his works have been shown at the Louvre and the Palace of Versailles. Companies affiliated with Chonghaejin reportedly have spent tens of millions of dollars to buy his photographs.

( Source : AP )
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