Seoul: The son of the South Korean tycoon blamed for April`s ferry disaster that killed more than 300 passengers, mostly schoolchildren, were sentenced Wednesday to three years in prison for embezzlement.
Yoo Dae-Kyun, 44, was found guilty of siphoning off some $7.2 million from Chonghaejin Marine Co., the operator of the stricken ferry, and its six sister companies between 2002 and late last year.
"He exploited his status as the eldest son of Yoo Byung-Eun for embezzlement," the court in the western port city of Incheon said in a statement.
The overloading of cargo on the Sewol ferry and an illegal redesign has been blamed for the April disaster, but investigations also showed that greed, corruption and a lack of proper oversight had contributed to the tragedy, triggering a wave of anti-establishment feeling across the country.
The court also sentenced Yoo`s uncle to two years for misfeasance in office, and four family aides received jail terms of up to four years for embezzlement or misfeasance, or both.
Eight other people, including another of Yoo`s uncles, received suspended jail sentences on similar charges.
Yoo`s mother, who was arrested in July along with her son, is still awaiting sentencing.
Yoo`s sister, Yoo Sum-Na, is currently fighting extradition from France on similar charges. A Paris court of appeal will rule Wednesday on her extradition.
His younger brother, who is currently abroad, is still wanted by police also linked to charges of embezzlement from the family-run conglomerate.
Following the ferry sinking, a manhunt was launched for Yoo`s reclusive father, Yoo Byung-Eun.
The badly decomposed body of the elder Yoo, who in addition to his substantial business interests also ran a religious group, was found in June. Post-mortem autopsy failed to determine the cause of his death.
Judges will deliver their verdict next week for 15 crew members of the ferry and 13 people accused of helping the elder Yoo hide from police.
Last week prosecutors demanded the death penalty for the ferry`s captain, life sentences for three senior crew members and prison terms of between 15 to 30 years for 11 others.
The crew were among the first to climb into the life boats and have been publicly vilified for abandoning the hundreds of passengers still trapped inside the ferry.
Although the death penalty still exists in South Korea, nobody has been executed since 1997. Currently, there are some 60 people on death row.