SEOUL – South Korean investigators on Wednesday raided a sprawling religious compound believed to be the hideout of a fugitive billionaire in a widening probe into last month’s ferry disaster that left hundreds dead.
TV footage showed four vans and a bus, packed with investigators, entering Geumsuwon, a 33-hectare (50-acre) church and farming complex in Anseong, about 80 km (50 miles) south of Seoul. Investigators want to detain Yoo Byung-eun, reclusive patriarch of the family that owns ferry operator Chonghaejin Marine Co., for questioning over his role in the company, as well as suspected tax evasion and embezzlement.
The raid began shortly before noon as more than 1,000 riot police, backed by 20 firetrucks and ambulances readied for action outside the compound.
Prosecutors suspect Yoo is responsible for unsafe business practices that contributed to the ferry’s sinking, including overloading the ship and remodeling it to squeeze in more passengers and cargo.