Helicopters flew overhead as officers moved from building to
building at the site, believed to cover the size of a dozen soccer
pitches, with church members in pursuit, some singing hymns, others
chanting "Let's fight with prosecutors and police!"
But the businessman, Yoo Byung-un, also a photographer who was once
jailed for fraud and is now South Korea's most wanted man, was
nowhere to be found.
Yoo, in his 70s, co-founder of the church which owns the website
www.god.com, is wanted on charges of embezzlement, negligence and
tax evasion stemming from a web of business holdings centred on
I-One-I, an investment vehicle owned by his sons that ran the
shipping company, Chonghaejin Marine.
Chonghaejin owned the Sewol which sank off the southwest coast on
April 16 on a routine journey from Incheon on the mainland to the
southern holiday island of Jeju.
Of the 476 passengers and crew on board, 339 were children and
teachers from the same school. Only 172 people were rescued and the
remainder are all presumed to have drowned.
The raid came a day after 15 crew went on trial in a court packed
with angry parents of the children who died. Four crew face homicide
charges after they were seen escaping the sharply listing vessel as
the children stayed in their cabins as told.
It also came a day after President Park Geun-hye, whose government
was sharply criticised over its handling of the disaster, said "it
made no sense" that such an extensive search operation had failed to
Church members grow organic produce, run a fish farm and hold
religious services. Yoo is believed to keep a photography studio
inside. As the search operation went ahead, some church members
handed out organic ice cream to police and journalists in the
[to top of second column]
Yoo and his sons, one of whom is based in the United States, have
eluded a police manhunt for nearly a month.
Yoo is a co-founder of the Evangelical Baptist Church that runs the
Anseong compound, a two-hour drive south of Seoul. The prosecution
has frozen the Yoo family's assets, but news reports said there may
be more yet to be identified.
Authorities last month increased the reward for information leading
to Yoo's arrest tenfold to the equivalent of half a million dollars.
About 6,000 officials took part in the raid, three weeks after an
initial search of the compound.
Chonghaejin Marine did not answer phone calls on Wednesday, while
two other firms related to Yoo had no comment on questions as to his
(Additional reporting by Sohee Kim and Joyce Lee; Writing by Jack
Kim; Editing by Tony Munroe and Nick Macfie)
[© 2014 Thomson Reuters. All rights
Copyright 2014 Reuters. All rights reserved. This material may not be published,
broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.