Prosecutors storm suspected hideout of sunken ferry owner

South Korean prosecutors Wednesday stormed the suspected hideout of the de facto owner of the sunken ferry Sewol without any opposition, media reported.

IANS| Last Updated: May 21, 2014, 14:17 PM IST

Seoul: South Korean prosecutors Wednesday stormed the suspected hideout of the de facto owner of the sunken ferry Sewol without any opposition, media reported.

A group of about 70 prosecutors and investigators entered the prayer retreat of the Evangelical Baptist Church in Anseong, a city south of Seoul, to detain Yoo Byung-eon who is believed to have controlled Chonghaejin Marine, the operator of the ferry Sewol which capsized and sank off the country`s southwestern coast April 16, Xinhua reported.

On the 36th day into the search for bodies of victims, 288 people have been confirmed dead, with 16 still missing. No survivor has been reported since 172 people were saved from the ship and the sea on the day the vessel sank.

About 100 believers of the church gathering in front of the gate let the prosecutors enter the retreat without any opposition, indicating that Yoo may have slipped out of the hideout.

Hundreds of believers had built lines of human barricade in front of the gate to prevent people from getting past, but the church said earlier in the day that it would cooperate in the investigation after prosecutors announced that the church was not related with a case of mass suicide that happened some 30 years ago.

Yoo, who remains an influential figure of the church as a founding member, was investigated in 1987 on suspicion that he could be behind the mass suicide of 32 pseudo-religious believers. At that time, he acted as a minister of the apocalyptic pseudo-religion.

The 73-year-old and his children have been suspected of committing a host of illegal acts, including transferring corporate funds to family bank accounts, which led to lack of funds with the ferry operator and caused the lax safety practices such as inveterate overloading.

Yoo and his family have been summoned by prosecutors several times for questioning, but they have ignored the summons. Arrest warrants have been sought for Yoo`s second son and eldest daughter, who stay abroad, and the eldest son has been placed on the most wanted list.