SEOUL, May 16 -- Prosecutors in South Korea sought a preliminary arrest warrant for the de facto owner of the sunken South Korean ferry after he disobeyed summons, local media reported on Friday, citing prosecutors.
The district prosecutors' office in the western port city of Incheon asked Yoo Byung-eon to appear at the office by 10 a.m. Friday, but Yoo, 73, who is believed to control Chonghaejin Marine, the sunken ship's operator, disobeyed it without any proper explanations.
Yoo and his family have been summoned by prosecutors several times on suspicions of embezzlement, dereliction of duty and tax evasion, but they have ignored the summons.
Prosecutors have already sought arrest warrants for Yoo's second son and eldest daughter, who are now staying abroad, and placed his eldest son on the most wanted list after disobeying summons.
Yoo and his children were suspected of committing various illegal acts, including transferring corporate funds to the family bank accounts, which led to lack of funds in the ferry operator and caused poor safety practices such as the inveterate overloading.
The prosecution office believed that Yoo and his children are highly likely to flee or destroy evidence given the repeated disobedience of summons and the lurking out of sight.
If Yoo does not appear at the court hearing on May 20 to decide whether to issue the arrest warrant, prosecutors will seek other measures such as forcibly taking Yoo into custody.
Yoo and his eldest son are believed to stay at a prayer retreat of the Evangelical Baptist Church in Anseong, south of Seoul, where Yoo remains an influential figure as a founding member.
Hundreds of believers gathered at the retreat to block the police's forcible entrance, claiming that the ongoing investigation is a religious persecution.