Asia

South Korea Sewol ferry owner's relatives jailed for corruption

South Korean rescue workers surround the sinking ferry Sewol - 16 April 2014 Image copyright AP
Image caption The Sewol ferry had been carrying 476 passengers, mainly school children, when it capsized in April

Three relatives of the late shipping company owner blamed for South Korea's Sewol ferry disaster have been given jail sentences for embezzlement.

They are the first members of Yoo Byung-eun's family to be convicted over corruption, which authorities believe may have contributed to the disaster.

A French court is due to decide whether to extradite Yoo's daughter, also on embezzlement charges.

More than 300 people died in the April sinking, many of them school students.

The sinking triggered widespread grief and anger at the government, which promised to overhaul its bureaucracy and improve emergency response.

Yoo Byung-eun and his family owned the Chonghaejin Marine Co, which in turn owned the Sewol ferry.

Prosecutors said the company ignored safety warnings and allowed the ship, which had been illegally redesigned, to be overloaded.

South Korean news agency Yonhap said on Wednesday that the elder Yoo's 44-year-old son Dae-kyun had been sentenced to three years in prison.

He was convicted of taking 7.4bn won (£4.3m; $6.8m) from Chonghaejin and six other affiliates from 2002 to 2013. The judge said he had "abused his status" as Yoo's son.

Two of Yoo's brothers, Byung-ill and Byung-ho, were also found guilty of similar charges and given prison terms of one and two years respectively.

Several other close aides of Yoo were also jailed.

Image copyright AP
Image caption A nationwide manhunt for Yoo Byung-eun was launched earlier this year, and he was later found dead in June

In France, Yoo's daughter Som-na is awaiting a decision by a French court due on Wednesday on whether she should be sent back to South Korea.

She was arrested in May in her Paris home on an Interpol warrant. South Korean prosecutors believe she embezzled about $7.5m from Chonghaejin subsidiaries. Her lawyers say she will not get a fair trial in South Korea.

Authorities had launched a nationwide manhunt for 73-year-old Yoo Byung-eun earlier this year, and raided a church compound owned by him.

His decomposed body was found in June in an orchard near his holiday home.

A separate trial for the Sewol's ferry captain and other crew members is ongoing.

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