Embezzlement charges for wife of fugitive South Korea ferry owner

SEOUL (AFP) - South Korean prosecutors on Monday filed embezzlement charges against the wife of a fugitive businessman who is wanted in connection with April's ferry disaster.

Kwon Yun Ja, 71, was taken into custody on June 21 for questioning by investigators seeking information that may lead to the capture of her husband Yoo Byun Eun, 73. Yoo is the patriarch of the family behind Chonghaejin Marine Co., which owned and operated the Sewol ferry that sank on April 16 with the loss of around 300 lives, most of them schoolchildren.

He is wanted for questioning on possible charges of embezzlement and criminal negligence, as prosecutors investigate the extent to which the disaster was caused by a lack of safety standards and regulatory violations.

The charges filed against his wife on Tuesday were unrelated to the ferry sinking, and involved the alleged embezzlement of money from a splinter religious group established by Kwon's father.

South Korean media has suggested that prosecutors have targeted Yoo's family in an effort to make him give himself up.

Yoo has no direct stake in Chonghaejin, but his children and close aides control it through a complex web of holding companies. A reward of 500 million won (S$610,000) has been offered for information leading to the capture of Yoo and 100 million won for that of his eldest son, Yoo Dae Kyun.

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