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Korean woman arrested in Paris after ferry sinking

May 27, 2014

PARIS (AP) — French police said Tuesday they arrested the daughter of a South Korean tycoon believed to be the owner of a ferry that sank last month in a disaster that left more than 300 people dead or missing.

Yoo Somena was detained early Tuesday at her home near the Champs-Elysees in Paris, said officials familiar with the matter on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly about the matter. French police were acting on an international arrest warrant issued May 8 by South Korean officials on suspicion that she was involved in embezzlement from 2004 to 2013, the officials said.

Yoo, 47, is the daughter of Yoo Byung-eun, a mysterious billionaire whom South Korean authorities believe to be the owner of the Sewol ferry that sank April 16. Nearly six weeks after the disaster, 288 bodies have been recovered and 16 people are missing. Most on board were high school students.

French authorities were expected to decide Wednesday whether she should be released under judicial watch or locked up. Police handed Yoo over to judicial authorities, and she was being held overnight before appearing before a judge Wednesday, an official said.

Her French lawyer, Patrick Maisonneuve, did not immediately return several calls by The Associated Press to his office seeking comment.

South Korean authorities have issued a reward of half a million dollars for tips leading to Yoo Byung-eun, who faces allegations of tax evasion, embezzlement and professional negligence. The head of the now-defunct predecessor of the ferry’s operator, Chonghaejin, he allegedly still controls the company through a complex web of holding companies in which his children and close associates are large shareholders.

Police in South Korea say a bounty of $100,000 has also been presented for Yoo’s eldest son on embezzlement allegations. Five Chonghaejin employees, including CEO Kim Han-sik, were indicted Monday on charges of professional negligence and violating a law on measures required for a safe maritime navigation, a South Korean court official said.

Prosecutors have said that a failure to spend enough money on safety may be a reason for the ferry’s sinking.

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