November 13, 2015 12:07
Criminal prosecutions involving last year's deadly ferry disaster are in their final stages, but efforts by prosecutors to seize the assets of the late ferry owner have gone nowhere.
The government estimates the cost of compensating the victims and the search and rescue operations at around W600 billion and pledged to cover the expenses by seizing the assets of Yoo Byung-eon, a dubious tycoon and sect leader (US$1=W1,160).
However, the government has so far failed to seize a single penny, and there is very little chance of that changing, so taxpayers will have to foot the bill.
The Justice Ministry, prosecutors, the National Tax Service and the Korea Deposit Insurance Corporation have all been searching for Yoo's hidden asset, which are estimated at roughly W500 billion.
The Chosun Ilbo obtained data from Saenuri Party lawmaker Min Byung-doo and the Financial Supervisory Service which reveal that the Justice Ministry believes Yoo to have been worth W128.2 billion, prosecutors W115.7 billion, the NTS W160 billion and the KDIC W103 billion as of June this year.
But they often considered overlapping assets, so the estimates do not tally. Excluding W41.4 billion in overlapping real estate indirectly owned by a farming cooperative, the amount of assets stands at only W200 billion. But most of them are real estate that have already been secured as collateral by banks, leaving little for the government to seize.
Matters are complicated because Yoo was an undischarged bankrupt and held none of his assets in his own name.
The total amount of loans taken out by his businesses shrank from W344.2 billion in May of last year to W171.2 billion in June of this year. That means banks already took back W173 billion. And the banks are still owed W171 billion, so the government will probably end up seizing nothing.
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