SEOUL, South Korea – South Korea has boosted to half a million dollars a reward for tips about the mysterious billionaire who prosecutors say owns a ferry that sank last month, police said Monday.
The ten-fold increase in the reward comes as officials struggle to find Yoo Byung-eun on allegations of tax evasion, embezzlement and professional negligence. Prosecutors have said that a failure to spend enough money on safety may be a reason for the April 16 sinking.
The sinking of the Sewol ferry left more than 300 people dead or missing, most of them high school students.
The $500,000 bounty is the same amount given if a South Korean citizen provides information about a North Korea-dispatched spy.
Police are also offering a bounty of $100,000 from Sunday, up from the previous $30,000, for Yoo's eldest son, according to the National Police Agency. He faces embezzlement allegations.
Yoo, head of the now-defunct predecessor of the ferry's current operator, Chonghaejin, allegedly still controls the company through a complex web of holding companies in which his children and close associates are large shareholders. Senior prosecutor Kim Hoe-jong said authorities believe Yoo is the chairman of Chonghaejin.
Five Chonghaejin employees have already been arrested. Authorities suspect improper stowage and overloading of cargo may have contributed to the disaster.
Prosecutors earlier this month indicted fifteen crew members tasked with the ship's navigation, four on homicide charges.