South Korean police have confirmed a body found last month has been identified as a fugitive billionaire businessman wanted in connection with April's horrific ferry disaster. (Via Getty Images / AsiaPac)
During a televised news conference Tuesday, a local police chief told reporters that the body of a man identified as 73-year-old Yoo-Byung-eun was found in a plum orchard in the southern part of the country on June 12. (Via YTN)
The body was reportedly heavily decomposed when discovered. But after conducting both DNA and fingerprint tests, investigators say they were able to make an identification.
Time quotes the police chief as saying the cause of the billionaire's death is still unknown, but several empty bottles of alcohol were reportedly found at the scene. "We do not know yet whether it was a homicide or a suicide."
Yoo went missing shortly after the Sewol ferry went down near Jindo Island on April 16, killing 294 of the 476 people on board. Most of the passengers were high school students. (Via Euronews)
Yoo was the patriarch of the family who reportedly controlled the company that owned that ferry. And authorities say they believe his alleged corruption might have led to the tragic disaster. (Via CNN)
The Korea Herald reports Yoo was accused of overlooking the possible risks of overloading the ferry with freight earlier this year, even though the vessel's ability to regain its balance when turning had apparently been compromised during a recent renovation.
CNN says Yoo was wanted for questioning on possible charges of funds embezzlement, tax evasion, criminal negligence and other irregularities authorities say could have contributed to the tragedy.
But as The Wall Street Journal reports, he managed to evade police for months and refused to report to the prosecutor's office for questioning. A reward of 500 million won, or the equivalent of nearly $500,000, was offered for information leading to his arrest.
According to the BBC, several of Yoo's family members have been arrested in connection with the investigation into the disaster and his daughter is currently fighting an extradition bid from France. His oldest son is reportedly still on the run.
The captain and the crew of the ferry are currently facing charges including murder and negligence causing death. Ten bodies are still missing from the sinking, and recovery efforts are still ongoing.