Prosecutors concealed the fact that they failed to find ferry owner Yoo Byung-eon during a raid of a summer cottage in Suncheon, South Jeolla Province in May although he was hiding in a cubbyhole.
Based on testimony from Yoo's secretary and a later search, prosecutors learned on June 27 that Yoo had been hiding in a secret compartment in the cottage during the raid and found two bags containing W830 million (US$1=W1,029) and US$160,000 in cash. But they kept that information to themselves for almost a month and only belatedly admitted it on Wednesday, after Yoo's corpse was identified.
According to law enforcement sources, prosecution investigators knew blunders were made during the raid and informed the prosecutor general, but the information was not passed on to neither police nor Cheong Wa Dae.
This leads to suspicions that prosecutors believed their blunders would be forgotten once Yoo was arrested and admitted them only when the cult leader’s dead body, which had been found as long ago as June 12, was finally identified on Tuesday.
Police have slammed prosecutors for withholding such key information, which would have saved them from continuing a massive nationwide manhunt.
If police had known Yoo fled in a rush, leaving behind bags of cash, they would have bolstered their search in the immediate vicinity. "We thought Yoo was trying to escape by boat and stepped up checks at ports around the country along with the military," a police officer said. "As a result, we wasted a month and huge amounts of taxpayers' money searching for him in the wrong place."
But prosecutors claim the secrecy was needed since they believed Yoo could return to the cottage to retrieve his cash.