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Ferry owner's close aide grilled over corruption allegations

2014/04/30 11:26

INCHEON, April 30 (Yonhap) -- Prosecutors on Wednesday summoned a close aide to the owner of a capsized ferry as part of their expanded investigation into various corruption allegations surrounding the owner family.

Song Kook-bin, a chief of local door-to-door sales company Dapanda Co., showed up at the Incheon District Prosecutors' Office in the western port city of Incheon around 10 a.m. as a suspect in the investigation.

The summon follows the deadly sinking of the Sewol on April 16, which left 210 dead with 92 still unaccounted for. Of the 476 people aboard the ship, which sank in waters off the southwestern island of Jindo, only 174 people were rescued.

A special prosecution team of the Incheon District Prosecutors' Office suspects that as one of seven close aides to Yoo Byung-eun, a billionaire suspected to be the de-facto owner Chonghaejin Marine Co. that owns and operates the Sewol, Song was deeply involved in the alleged crimes committed by Yoo and his close relatives.

Charges against Yoo and his family include embezzlement, dereliction of duty, tax evasion and bribery, prosecutors said.

The finances of Chonghaejin Marine and its complex share structure have come under scrutiny by the prosecution investigation since the disaster.

The prosecution suspects that Yoo is the de-facto owner of not only Chonghaejin Marine but also a dozen other affiliates. Yoo's family is suspected of accumulating at least 240 billion won (US$230.7 million) in assets by embezzling corporate funds while failing to fulfill its duty of properly managing the companies.

Song, who also previously served as an executive of I-One-I holding which was Chonghaejin's parent company, now heads Dapanda. Yoo's first son, Dae-kyun, is the biggest shareholders in Dapanda.

On Tuesday, Kim Han-sik, a chief executive of Chonghaejin Marine and also a close aide to Yoo, was also summoned as a suspect to face questioning.

Prosecutors plan to seek arrest warrants for both Song and Kim later this week and summon Yoo for questioning as well, according to multiple sources at the prosecution office.

khj@yna.co.kr

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