S.Korean linked to ferry disaster extradited, arrested

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The daughter of the South Korean tycoon blamed for the 2014 Sewol ferry disaster arrived in Seoul Wednesday to face questioning over her own role in the affair, after being extradited from France.

Yoo Som-Na was detained in Paris in May 2014 and has been wanted in South Korea on suspicion of embezzling millions of dollars from subsidiaries of her family's company, Chonghaejin Marine Co.

South Korean authorities believe the alleged embezzlement contributed to safety defects which led to the April 2014 sinking that claimed the lives of 304 people, most of them high school children.

Yoo denied the "outrageous" allegations after arriving at the Incheon Prosecutors' Office for questioning.

"I've never embezzled anything from the company," she told reporters, adding that the only money she had ever taken was "the pay I received for my service".

Yoo, her wrists handcuffed in front of her and covered with a black cloth for privacy, wept when asked about the disaster.

"I cannot help crying whenever I think about the victims... no words can possibly console the relatives," she said.

Yoo, 51, was detained for 13 months in France but released in the middle of 2015.

But in June last year, the then-Prime Minister Manuel Valls signed a decree for her extradition. Yoo appealed the decision but it was upheld.

Her father Yoo Byung-Eun was the target of a massive manhunt in South Korea after he refused to respond to a summons following the ferry disaster.

The tycoon, who in addition to his substantial business interests also ran a religious group, was found dead in a plum orchard two months after the accident.

A post-mortem on his badly decomposed body failed to determine the cause of death.

Yoo is the first person to be returned to South Korea by France since an extradition treaty between the two countries took effect in 2008.

She will face questioning about suspected financial irregularities related to a company effectively owned by her father, which operated the ill-fated Sewol ferry.

The overloaded 6,825-tonne vessel was carrying 476 people when it capsized off the southern coast of South Korea.

Most of the victims were Danwon High School students on an excursion. The sinking and botched rescue efforts dealt a crushing blow to now-ousted president Park Geun-Hye.

Investigations concluded the disaster was the result of numerous human factors, including an illegal redesign, an overloaded cargo bay and inexperienced crew.


© 2017 AFP

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