Over a month after more than 300 people died when the Sewol ferry capsized and sank off the coast of South Korea, the government is offering over a quarter of a million pounds for information leading to the capture of the ferry company’s fugitive owner.
73-year-old Yoo Byung-un, the head of the family that controls the Chonghaejin Marine Company, is wanted on charges of professional negligence, embezzlement, and tax evasion.
The sum is a tenfold increase from the 50 million Won (£29,300) authorities had initially offered, and is the maximum amount allowed by criminal law as a reward for a fugitive.
“This is the largest amount ever offered by an investigative authority as reward,” said a prosecution official involved in the case.
The boost comes after Yoo failed to appear at the Incheon District Court on 20 May, according to Korea JoonAng Daily.
South Korea ferry disaster
South Korea ferry disaster
1/6 South Korea ferry disaster
A woman ties a yellow ribbon dedicated to dead and missing passengers onboard sunken passenger ship Sewol to a pillar at Yellow Ribbon's Garden set up at Seoul City Hall Plaza
2/6 South Korea ferry disaster
A South Korean man walks past a well-wishing ribbon in Seoul
3/6 South Korea ferry disaster
High school student who are members of the Youth section of the Seoul Alpine Federation, climb to display a sign reading 'My dear friend I will remember you forever' while hoping for the safe return of the sunken ferry Sewol's missing passengers as they hang on a rope bridge on the Ansan mountain in Seoul
4/6 South Korea ferry disaster
High school student hold a sign reading 'My dear friend I will remember you forever' while hoping for the safe return of the sunken ferry Sewol's missing passengers as they hang on a rope bridge on the Ansan mountain in Seoul
5/6 South Korea ferry disaster
File image: A diver gets out from the sea after attempting to search for the missing passengers at the site of the sunken South Korean ferry 'Sewol' off Jindo on 26 April, 2014
6/6 South Korea ferry disaster
South Korean coast guard officers try to rescue passengers from the Sewol ferry as it sinks in the water off the southern coast near Jindo, south of Seoul, South Korea
Prosecutors claim that the Sewol ferry was structurally unsound after it was remodelled to increase its capacity, and was massively overloaded with cargo before it sank.
The investigating authorities believe that as its crew attempted to make a sharp turn, it failed to restore its balance, and capsized.
Nearly six weeks after the disaster, 288 bodies have been recovered and 16 people are missing. Most of the people on board were high school students.
The raise in the ransom sum came prior to the capture of the tycoon’s daughter, Yoo Somena, who was arrested on Tuesday at her home near the Champs-Elysees in Paris, according to French officers.
South Korean officials had issued an arrest warrant for the 47-year-old on suspicion that she was involved in embezzlement from 2004 to 2013, the officials said.
The authorities have also offered 100 million won for tips leading to the arrest of one of the sons. The other is believed to be in the United States. The trio have all allegedly evaded summons to appear for questioning and have arrest warrants outstanding.
Additional reporting by agencies