Police on Friday arrested the older brother of the fugitive owner of the sunken ferry Sewol as part of a large-scale raid on a church retreat south of Seoul.
Police arrested Yoo Byung-il, 75, in Anseong earlier in the day on charges that had been filed earlier, not in relation to the current Sewol investigations. He had been accused of embezzlement and violating real estate laws.
Yoo is the elder brother of Yoo Byung-eun, 73, who is believed to own Chonghaejin Marine Co., the operator of the ferry that sank off the southwest coast on April 16.
With the arrest of Byung-il, police hope to learn information concerning the whereabouts of Byung-eun and his son Dae-kyun.
The father and son, wanted for embezzlement, tax evasion and negligence, have led investigators on a weeks-long manhunt that has been cited as one of South Korea's largest ever.
Police officers conducted a road inspection near Geumsuwon, a religious complex of the Salvation Sect, located about 80 kilometers south of Seoul. The Yoo family is considered prominent members of the church. Other church members have staged protests against authorities trying to arrest the Yoos.
Authorities had briefly detained Byung-il last month as a potential suspect in the Sewol accident, but let him go. An arrest warrant was not filed until June.
In a related move, investigators from the Busan District Prosecutors' Office raided the Ministry of Oceans and Fisheries in Sejong on Friday, to search for papers related to a research conference sponsored by the ministry last year.
Prosecutors from Busan have been searching potentially illicit deals between government employees and shipping industry officials that may have led to the Sewol disaster.
Law enforcement officials suspect that maritime officials mismanaged the 140 million won ($138,000) budget for last year's conference on the latest research on ballast water purification.
Friday's raid came after prosecutors arrested a maritime ministry official identified only by his surname Jeon on Sunday on charges of influence peddling in relation to the research conference.
Jeon is suspected to have received money in return for awarding government contracts to private companies in the management of last year's international research forum.
Authorities will see if the obtained documents show that ministry officials other than Jeon received kickbacks from shipping companies or otherwise abused their power as public servants.
A mother who lost a son in the Sewol accident meanwhile filed a lawsuit on Friday at the Seoul Central District Court asking the government and Chonghaejin Marine Co. to pay her 30 million won.
This is the first litigation filed by a bereaved family member in relation to the maritime tragedy.
There has been talk at parliament of the National Assembly's Sewol investigative committee filing a lawsuit for victims' families. Lawmakers have not guaranteed any other payment to the families as of Friday.