Written by Staff Writer
24 Apr, 2014 | 7:12 am
South Korean authorities searched the offices of the company that owns the sunken ferry Sewol on Wednesday, prosecutors confirmed to CNN, broadening a criminal investigation that has already ensnared 11 members of the ill-fated ship’s crew.
Investigators also searched the offices of 20 organizations affiliated with Cheonghaejin Marine Co. as well as the home of Yoo Byung-eun, a billionaire whose family appears to control the company, according to the semiofficial Yonhap News Agency.
Yoo is known in South Korea as the “millionaire with no face” because he rarely appears in public. According to major South Korean newspapers, he also has an artistic alter ego — Ahae — as a photographer who has won international acclaim.
His website appears to show Yoo taking pictures, but his face is not visible.
Through an investment vehicle and subsidiary, Yoo and his two sons control the shipping company that operated the ferry. Korean tax authorities say that under the family’s ownership, the ferry company has been struggling and reported a loss last year.
Days after the ferry sank, the company sent out its president to apologize, but not Yoo — who’s had a brush with bad publicity before.
In 1987, he was a religious cult leader. More than 30 people from his group were found dead, bound and gagged in a factory outside of Seoul. Officials investigated the incident as a mass murder-suicide, but found no evidence tying the event to Yoo.
Prosecutors in the South Korean city of Busan are also investigating the private organization responsible for inspecting and certifying ships for the South Korean government, Yonhap reported.
Investigators are looking for any evidence of possible wrongdoing in relation to the Korean Register of Shipping’s safety inspection of the Sewol, the news agency reported, citing an unnamed prosecutor.
The Sewol sank April 16 during a routine trip from Incheon to the resort island of Jeju. Among its 476 passengers and crew were more than 300 high school students on a field trip.
As of early Thursday, authorities had retrieved 159 bodies, leaving 143 passengers missing.
Eleven members of the Sewol’s crew, including its captain, have been arrested in connection with the disaster.
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